Dodgers Welcome New and Improved Yasiel Puig

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It’s a bit too early in the season to provide detailed analysis or insightful predictions about any players in the Dodgers‘ organization, but if the first two games against the Padres were indicators of what’s in store, the new version of Yasiel Puig that we’re seeing has the potential of contributing to the team in a huge kind of way.

Originally, the working title of this short, little editorial was intended to be something like “Yasiel Puig Showing Glimpses of Old Self,” however, truth be told, there are a few characteristics that we’re seeing from Puig that have either been invisible or never existed in the past.

Padres’ starter Tyson Ross had his way with Puig during his initial at-bat of the 2016 campaign, but from that point on we saw what appeared to be a superstar — except for maybe the near collision with Joc Pederson in right-center field on Tuesday night.

Granted, the Padres aren’t exactly top-notch competition, yet these new traits on display from the Dodgers’ outfielder are already creating chemistry in the batting order.

Puig appears to be more patient at the plate, and in doing so gives the impression of being a smarter hitter. In a handful of his plate appearances thus far, he was able to work the count in his favor to ultimately get the pitches he needed to drive the ball. It comes across as if Puig actually did his homework on the opposing pitching staff and arrived to the game prepared to hit.

“I’m trying to stay back on pitches, trying to not go with what they’re trying to get me with,” Puig said through an interpreter. “It has helped to make good contact with the ball.”

And it appears as if he’s hitting the ball harder. The ball seems to be jumping off his bat, as demonstrated by his game changing triple in the top of the fourth inning of Tuesday’s contest.

Among other things, it almost looks as if Puig has taken a personal inventory and adjusted his attitude a bit, which was made evident by him sprinting to first base after a base on balls, in addition to not appearing angrily annoyed after being hit by a pitch. Believe it or not, Puig looks to be serious about the game and ready to play.

With both hamstrings finally healthy, he’s not afraid to take risks on the basepaths and show everyone the electricity he’s capable of generating — something that’s been absent from his game for two seasons.

“I worked really hard at it in Miami and Los Angeles [during the offseason]. I worked on my legs,” Puig added. “It’s something I didn’t do last year, and a reason why I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been. But this year I have been working on it, and getting good results.”

He’s in a perfect spot in the batting order, settling nicely into the five hole — not too high in the lineup to be a point of emphasis, yet still in a perfect spot to have key RBI opportunities.

“When he gets on base, and conducts those at-bats for us at the middle of the order, good things are going to happen,” manager Dave Roberts said.

To start the season, Puig is 3-for-6 with two triples, two walks, a single and a HBP, reaching base in six of his nine trips to the dish.

If Puig can find a way to dig deep and maintain these new player qualities over the course of a 162-game season, not only will fans across Dodgertown be treated to a special individual campaign, but also a unified team effort that just may last deep into the postseason.

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