All Yasiel Puig had to do was play well. Sure, he still baffles people from time to time, providing fodder for his critics as he goofs on the bases, flips his bat on lazy fly balls, or makes ill-advised throws. Ultimately, Puig could still ultimately silence many of his critics, including manager Don Mattingly, by simply playing good baseball on a consistent basis.
Puig has done that and more this season. It is often obscured by his antics and the histrionic reactions to his antics, but Puig is simply one of the best all-around players in baseball.
Mattingly said as much on Tuesday, focusing on Puig’s ability on defense (quotes from ESPN Los Angeles):
“We feel like, right now, Yasiel is the best right fielder in baseball,” Mattingly told reporters. “This guy dominates right field.”
“The way he plays right field, he really stops the running game from first to third,” Mattingly said. Puig has four outfield assists this season, fourth among all major league outfielders. He has yet to commit an error.
These comments come in an interesting context for the Dodgers, as normal center fielder Matt Kemp has been benched and might be moved to left field for his own struggles in the outfield. This seems to indicate that the Dodgers are placing high value on outfield defense, something they are wise to do considering the NL West parks where they spend much of their time.
While Mattingly might be concerned about his other two spots, he took a moment to send Puig some well-deserved praise for his work in right. And while we’re talking about Puig playing well, we should also note this:
Over the last calendar year, the best hitter in baseball? Not Trout, not Cabrera. Yasiel Puig. http://t.co/CkBMVMVUHi
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) May 27, 2014
He might make people mad, but those people will have to be brave. They are going to keep hearing about Puig, primarily because the guy can flat out play.