Nov 06

Why Yasiel Puig’s reckless driving case has been dismissed

Holly Webb of TheChattanoogan.com reports on the dismissal of reckless driving and speeding charges against Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig (link via Tony Jackson of Dodgerscribe).

… Judge David Bales presided over the case. After reading the charges, he read a letter written by the Dodgers’ Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Lon Rosen on Puig’s behalf. The letter detailed Puig’s involvement in the Los Angeles community and called him “an asset.” Rosen said that Puig was active in several charity organizations that worked with underprivileged youth in the area. The letter also said that Puig had attended charity fundraisers for an orphanage in Zambia.

After reading the letter, Judge Bales addressed the courtroom and emphasized that Puig’s case was not treated differently or specially in spite of Puig’s fame and media presence. Judge Bales said “The state of Tennessee is the prosecuting entity, I have nothing to do with it…All cases are treated the same.”

Defense Attorney Mike Little pointed out to Judge Bales that prior to this event, his client had a clean record. And although Puig did not have insurance papers with him when he was pulled over, he did have insurance at the time and brought those records to court. Attorney Little recommended community service.

After taking everything into consideration, Judge Bales decided to dismiss the case against Puig. His reasons were Puig’s lack of prior record, the fact that he currently lives out of state, and Puig’s active participation in community service activities. …

Sep 01

Puig missed the cutoff man … and saved the Dodgers

An element to the too-great debate over Yasiel Puig is this idea that his flaws – such as missing the cutoff man – will cost the Dodgers a victory.

Putting aside the phony idea that occasional on-field mistakes should negate all the positive Puig brings to Los Angeles, there’s also this:

Hitting or missing the cutoff man is usually presented as a black-and-white tale of good vs. evil, ignoring the fact that sometimes, to throw out a baserunner at home, you are absolutely going to miss the cutoff man.

Saturday, the Dodgers won by one run, a margin arguably carved out by nothing less than Puig missing the cutoff man to nail Rene Rivera trying to score on Andrew Cashner’s two-out, fourth-inning single.

Puig could have easily hit the cutoff man on this play – and the Padres would just as easily taken a two-run lead with their leadoff hitter coming up to bat. Which outcome would you prefer?

Vin Scully sure didn’t seem to mind: “Puig does it again,” he exclaimed. “He just airmails it, a hopper, just to Federowicz, who just plants and makes the tag. Oh, to be 22 and a Dodger – wow!”

The key, obviously, is to know when to go for the play at home and to know when to focus on the trailing baserunner. Guess what: three months into his major-league career, it’s okay that Puig is still learning about how to make this choice with major-league baserunners. It really is.

If his decision-making on throws home is the worst thing you can say about his game between the lines, that is really extraordinary.

On Saturday, Puig went hitless (three times with runners on base) and was caught stealing with a 2-1 count on Adrian Gonzalez, yet made one of the biggest plays of the game. Something to remember the next time he knocks three hits and all anyone wants to talk about is hitting the cutoff man.

* * *

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.

With rosters expanding today, the Dodgers have kicked things off by officially recalling Drew Butera, Stephen Fife, Dee Gordon, Peter Moylan and Scott Van Slyke.

The Dodgers’ 2.07 ERA in August was their lowest in a month since April 1981. The top five:

1.59 September 1965
1.93 April 1981
1.93 September 1976
2.03 September 1966
2.07 August 2013

Los Angeles also had its second-best month by winning percentage.

.850 April 1977
.793 August 2013
.792 July 2013

Aug 07

Yasiel Puig, Plate Disciplinarian

A Carl Crawford liner knocked St. Louis starter Shelby Miller out of the game after two pitches, a six-run second inning knocked around emergency reliever Jake Westbrook and the Dodgers more or less cruised thereafter to 25 baserunners (Crawford reached five times) in a 13-4 victory.

I rushed through that description so that I could get to what I wanted to talk about – the developing batting eye of Yasiel Puig.

After drawing skepticism and a bit of derision for his wild, swinging ways – seven walks in his first 42 games (against 43 strikeouts) – Puig has dramatically turned things around. With three walks tonight, Puig now has 12 walks in his past 13 games (against 14 strikeouts). That’s a 150-walk pace over a 162-game season.

Only one of the 12 walks has been intentional.

It’s not that Puig has been timid in the plate. Emerging for a slump that lowered his OPS to a season-worst .967 (yeah, season-worst) on July 22, Puig has gone exactly 20 for 50 with those 12 walks, two hit-by-pitches, four doubles and three home runs. That’s a .400 batting average, .531 on-base percentage, .660 slugging percentage and 1.191 OPS during that stretch.

Puig has drawn five walks in the four games that Hanley Ramirez has missed this week, but that alone doesn’t account for his improved showing. And it means that 240 plate appearances into his career, Puig still has an OPS well over 1.000.

His ups were followed by some downs, and his downs have now turned into some ups. The ride will continue, but it’s hard not to be excited by his ability to show power with restraint.

Jul 02

Dodgers livin’ the dream, 8-0

There was no life I’d known to compare with pure imagination.

And then Yasiel Puig came along, joining Clayton Kershaw on what had been a lonesome, uphill journey.

And the rest of the Dodgers followed.

They were so bad, and now they’re so good. With their 8-0 shutout in Colorado tonight, the Dodgers have won nine games out of 10, moving into fourth place, .00058 behind the San Diego Padres, and 2 1/2 games out of first.

It’s remarkable to think that without the injuries and the losing and frankly, the depression, Puig would have come from the seas of the Atlantic only as far as the woods of Tennessee. But the road west opened for Puig, and tonight, he did to Coors Field exactly what you’d expect Puig to do to Coors Field – given that fact that Puig himself is pure imagination.

Matt Kemp is the living reality check on the Puig phenomenon, the former All-Everything going 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and, almost tenderly, the most encouraging out of the night, a 400-plus blast to the fence in deepest Coors.

But otherwise, reality, or what used to serve as reality, seemed far away. Hanley Ramirez had another two hits, including a double. Adrian Gonzalez had two hits, including a homer.  Juan Uribe had two RBI singles. A.J. Ellis anted up and drew two pair, walks and doubles.

And Ace was Rocky Mountain High.

Five years and change into his major-league career, Clayton Kershaw remains as sweet as a river of chocolate. He threw his second shutout of the season, dominating the Rockies with eight strikeouts, no walks and but one runner getting as far as second base. He ended the 27-game hitting streak of Michael Cuddyer in the process.

The pitcher whose ERA in the second half of the season has been lower than the first half every year of his career dropped his 2013 mark to 1.93, with two starts to go before this year’s All-Star Game, a game he will certainly be a part of.

Lately, there’s been much debate about whether Puig will join him, to which I say, whatever happens, happens. If we’re meant to keep Puig for ourselves for a little while longer, I am content, come what may.

In other words, if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.

Jul 02

Yasiel Puig at sea

The beauty of this Jeff Passan story at Yahoo! Sports on Yasiel Puig’s intersection with the U.S. Coast Guard in April 2012 takes many forms — the drama, the intrigue, the introspection, and perhaps most of all, the open acknowledgement of conflicting moral values.

Humanity is a complicated, fascinating thing.

 

Jun 28

If he keeps playing like this, Yasiel Puig will earn much more than $42 million

Part of the wonder surrounding Yasiel Puig is that what looked like a risky contract – seven years, $42 million for a mostly unscouted amateur – now looks like a bargain.

But if Puig even keeps up a semblance of his current performance, that bargain isn’t going to last for long.

After Puig earns three years of service time (at this rate, following the 2016 season, because the Dodgers called him up in June), he can opt out of his current deal and enter the arbitration process. And if you’ve paid any attention to Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw or even Chad Billingsley or Andre Ethier, you know what that means.

Year Kemp Kershaw Ethier Billingsley Puig
1 $383,000 $404,000 $387,500 $384,500 $2 million
2 $406,000 $440,000 $424,500 $415,000 $2 million
3 $467,000 $500,000 $3.1 million $475,000 $2 million
4 $4 million $7.5 million $5.5 million $3.85 million $4.5 million
5 $6.95 million $11 million $9.25 million $6.275 million $5.5 million*
6 $10 million $18 million? $10.95 million $9 million $6.5 million*
7 $20 million $24 million? $13.5 million $11 million $7.5 million*
Bonuses $2 million $3 million     $12 million
Total $42.206 million $64.844 million? $43.112 million $31.3 million $42 million*

*can opt out and seek arbitration
Note: Puig was guaranteed $2 million in his first year, regardless of whether he played in the majors. Ethier was called up early enough in his rookie campaign to start his arbitration clock sooner.

Although you’ll see Billingsley is currently slated to earn less than Puig over his first seven years, he still has a higher total during the arbitration-eligible seasons than Puig would have without opting out.

Meanwhile, if he can post .850-ish OPSes like Ethier did in his arbitration years, Puig will probably add at least another $15 million to his bank account. Any Kemp-like MVP-caliber seasons from 2016 on will push Puig even higher.

And if Puig continues to be otherworldly like a Kershaw – except one who plays every day – look out.

Of course, whatever the extra dollars are, the Dodgers and their fans will gladly accept the consequences of Puig being a star, as long as he’s a star for them.

Jun 21

Yasiel Puig has a bad three-quarters of a game

Amid everything that was so familiar about a 2013 Dodger defeat – fielding stumbles, poor situational hitting and a bullpen meltdown wasting a capable starting outing – there was something new about Thursday’s 6-3 loss to San Diego: fan frustration with Yasiel Puig.

What’s remarkable – and speaks volumes – is that it came in a game in which Puig hit yet another home run, his sixth (in 16 games) of the season, more than all but one other Dodger.

But after that first-inning, first-pitch blast, Puig struck out a career-high three times, chasing bad pitches like a young Raul Mondesi or Matt Kemp, and from then on you could hear the I told you sos.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com provides the details of Puig’s second at-bat against Jason Marquis:

… with two on and no out in the third inning, he took a sinker he thought was too far inside and stared at the umpire.

“It seemed to irritate Yasiel and he started to swing at pitches out of the strike zone, and the rest of the night Marquis didn’t give in,” Mattingly said. “Yasiel has been fairly patient, tonight [he was] more aggressive out of the strike zone.”

He swung wildly at the next sinker and foul-tipped it. Marquis then came with a pair of down-and-away sliders Puig flailed at. Puig stared at Marquis as he headed toward the dugout and Marquis stared back. …

By the time Puig followed Skip Schumaker’s double-play grounder with a game-ending strikeout in the ninth – turning what for a brief moment looked like the potential for a stirring Dodger comeback into a deeper dive into last place – numerous Dodger fans on Twitter were not only chastising Puig but instructing him how he needs to change his stance.

Reminder: Puig has a 1.267 OPS at this moment.

Three points that should be obvious need to be stated:

• Baseball is a game of adjustments, and without a doubt, at some point Puig will need to make them. It’s understandable why alarm bells went off for fans with visions of a struggling Mondesi or Kemp. It was at a similar stage in his debut – after seven homers and a 1.287 OPS in his first 15 career games – that Kemp’s game first went south, pushing him back to the minors four weeks later.

• That being said, it’s one thing for fans to be frustrated, but after what he’s accomplished, Puig deserves more than three bad at-bats before the wolves come out, much less before people start tinkering with his stance in response to what simply might have been a night of frustration of his own. He is not going to spend his career flirting with a .500 batting average, so there needs to be some amount of pain tolerance.

• Puig is the least of the Dodgers’ worries right now.

The game was not without its highlights. Here’s one, courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez.

But the Padres outdid the Dodgers.

* * *

For you Manny Mota fans out there – and how could you not be one – here’s a detailed piece from Bruce Markusen at the Hardball Times on the famed Dodger pinch-hitter, who will be inducted into the Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals this summer.

Jun 03

I got this, boys

Looking up with childlike anticipation into the pure nighttime Dodger sky, Yasiel Puig sees the one-out, ninth inning, Kyle Blanks fly ball that he’s going to catch and then rifle back from the warning track to double up Chris Denorfia at first base to end the game.

Yasiel Puig went 2 for 4, and the home runs came from Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Van Slyke, but his arm will be the legend of his major-league debut, a 2-1 Dodger victory. That throw was a work of art.

Jun 02

Saviors

Life is jagged lines.

In the majors, Yasiel Puig shouldn’t be expected to match the .383 on-base percentage and .599 slugging he has put up with Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, though to be clear, the Southern League isn’t nearly as deceptive a hitting environment as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Scott Van Slyke, for example, has a major-league OPS with the Dodgers this year of .909 following an Albuquerque OPS of 1.236. The gap should be less for Puig, and if it is, he’ll be hitting better than Andre Ethier is now.

As a result, there are few scenarios in which Puig’s arrival in Los Angeles on Monday won’t improve the Dodgers. Puig will play in the outfield and likely be more productive than the guy he’s replacing, Skip Schumaker. While he will still serve as a late-inning defensive replacement, Schumaker can also spend more time in the infield and be more productive than the guy he takes at-bats away from, Luis Cruz.

By my appropriation of the transitive property, that is the low bar that Puig needs to clear to be an asset. That doesn’t speak to what kind of leap Puig will actually make. Puig could be a band-aid for this struggling team, or he could be bionic. At different times, he’ll be both.

Life is jagged lines. Puig, like everyone else, will go up and down and down and up, his graph of success as prickly as a porcupine. He will have good games and bad games and games where you can’t decide what they were.

He will be like the last savior in the outfield, Matt Kemp.

Some Dodger fans have little sense of irony, but you have to admire how the rapid and rabid revolt against Kemp for his shortcomings in 2013 has been accompanied by urgent calls for him to be replaced by the player who most resembles him.

Seven years ago, Kemp was Puig – the raw kid with talent to burn and lessons to learn. Puig, like Kemp did when he hit the majors at age 21 in 2006, has a hugely bright future. But anyone putting their faith in Puig will almost certainly at some point need a level of patience that many fans have denied Kemp whenever he has struggled, no matter how much he has done for his team. 

In 2007 and 2009, Kemp was hugely productive. In 2008 and 2010, people were calling for him to be traded.

Last May, he was the best player on the planet. This May? Read these letters to the Los Angeles Times.

It’s hard to believe that Matt Kemp has made the Dodgers’ $160-million investment disappear quicker than Bernie Madoff ever could have.

Herb Schoenberg
Tarzana

* * *

I have never heard of a team being worse off if a guy that’s hitting .251 with two home runs and 17 RBIs goes on the disabled list. I’m pretty sure that a minor leaguer could equal or exceed those numbers in half the time. How does Matt Kemp injure his hamstring when he hardly, if ever, goes full speed?

Geno Apicella
Placentia

* * * 

Lest we forget, Matt Kemp is a paid performer and he’s not earning his keep. Baseball is a business. At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance. Kemp would do well to invoke the ghost of the late Lyman Bostock who memorably asked the late Buzzie Bavasi, then the GM of the Angels, to withhold his salary because of poor performance.

Skip Nevell
Los Angeles

They’re all good, but Nevell’s is my favorite. “At any other company he would have been dismissed long ago for his woeful performance.”

“Long ago.” Just let that roll around in your head for a minute.

It never ceases to amaze me how many baseball fans act as if they’ve never seen a player slump, much less struggle to recover from surgery. They expect straight lines. I don’t know why, because in baseball, they don’t exist. The only straight lines in baseball go from home plate toward the right-field and left-field corners.

Even Mike Trout got the derisive whispers this past April. Imagine.

There’s no mistaking how difficult it has been to watch Kemp play this year. I don’t know exactly what his future holds, but I don’t see any reason to believe that what we’ve seen this season is the best we’ll see from him for the rest of his days. I don’t understand how baseball fans can have such short memories, when it’s a game built on lasting ones.

Kemp made a name – and a nickname – for himself out of the gate in 2006, hitting seven home runs in his first 15 games. A month later, he was back in the minors. I’m excited about Yasiel Puig’s arrival – curiosity, hope and the potential of witnessing the birth of greatness are a good combination to have when tuning into a game, especially when your team is in last place. But I pray I’m not alone in anticipating how uneven the road might be, not only over the coming days, but also weeks, months and years. It doesn’t pay to be too hopeful or too cynical.

Life is jagged lines, and baseball is life.

Aug 13

Homer drought in left field … not for the first time

Dodgers at Pirates, 4:05 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P

To say the least, this has been a lean year of home runs from Dodger leftfielders. The full list: Juan Rivera on May 6, Bobby Abreu on June 2, Elian Herrera on July 5, Jerry Hairston Jr. on July 7. That’s it. Four.

To my surprise, however, this kind of year isn’t unprecedented. In fact, the Dodgers aren’t on pace to have their worst year in leftfielder home runs since moving to Los Angeles — and the low-offense 1960s have nothing to do with it.

Lowest single-season HR totals for Dodger LF

Year	G	HR	Players
2012	115	4	Abreu, Hairston, Herrera, Rivera
1958	154	6	Cimoli, Demeter, Fairly, Gilliam, Howard, Roseboro
1974	162	7	Buckner 7
1976	162	7	Buckner 7
1970	161	8	Crawford 4, Mota 3, Kosco
1981	110	8	Baker 8
1973	162	9	Buckner 3, Crawford 2, Joshua 2, Ferguson, Paciorek
1975	162	9	Buckner 6, Lacy 2, Crawford
2011	161	9	Rivera 4, Gwynn 2, Gibbons, Oeltjen, Sands
1992	162	10	Davis 5, Webster 3, Daniels 2
2005	162	10	Ledee 3, Grabowski 3, Repko 2, Werth 2

The lowest total of home runs by leftfielders for the Dodgers in the 1960s was 14, in 1965 and 1966.

Here are the top five seasons since 1958:

Year	G	HR	Players
2000	162	48	Sheffield 43, Aven 2, Donnels 2, Leyritz
2001	162	42	Sheffield 36, Grissom 5, Aven
1999	162	34	Sheffield 34
1990	162	32	Daniels 27, Gwynn 3, Gibson 2
1977	162	30	Baker 30

Dodger leftfielders hit more home runs in 2000 than Dodger leftfielders have hit since 2009 (45).

Sheffield hit his 43 homers in 2000 in only 139 games … but how ’bout that Bruce Aven, huh?

Coming soon — home run droughts at first base for the Dodgers.

* * *

Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig has been promoted to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has more.

Update: Elian Herrera has been called up in place of Jerry Hairston Jr., who was placed on the disabled list with left hip inflammation.

Aug 03

Are the Dodgers looking for Lee-way?

The thought of Cliff Lee becoming a Dodger came alive Thursday when Philadelphia placed the lefthander on revocable waivers.

The Dodgers theoretically have the capacity to take on a contract that would pay Lee, who turns 34 this month, at least $94 million through 2016, if no National League team with a poorer record claims him. The Phillies then could work out a deal with the Dodgers (or simply hand Lee over), or Philadelphia could just “Thanks, but just teasing.”

One question I have is why Lee would have value to the Dodgers but not the Phillies, who don’t figure to be rebuilding for long. If we think Lee still has talent, than Philadelphia should keep him. If we think that talent is fading fast, the Dodgers shouldn’t want him.

As for whether they should go for Lee — well, if money is no object for the Dodgers, then money is no object. But if there is a limit, however high, I can understand why they might balk at the price. Not wanting to pay a mid-30s pitcher about $25 million a year isn’t a case of being cheap.

Still, it’s something to think about. Here’s an excerpt from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Based on the contracts currently on the books, the Dodgers have $135 million already allocated to players under team control for 2013, while A.J. Ellis is their only significant arbitration eligible player. So, if their payroll target was $175 million (which, keep in mind, is a number I pulled out of thin air, and may not actually represent their budget), that would leave them about $35 million to spend to fill out the roster, meaning they could take Cliff Lee’s contract and still have enough left to buy a new first baseman. While Lee’s contract would be a budget buster for most organizations, it might not prevent the Dodgers from making further upgrades in other areas as well.

And, to be honest, there’s probably not a better use of that money available in free agency this winter. Before the season started, the assumption was that the Dodgers would make a huge push for either Cole Hamels or Joey Votto — or both — but they have since re-signed with their clubs, eliminating them from possible consideration. That leaves the big name targets this winter as Josh Hamilton, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Nick Swisher, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and potentially Zack Greinke, if he doesn’t re-sign with the Angels first. There’s certainly some nice players in there, but besides Greinke and Hamilton, no one in that group has the potential impact that Lee would have, and both of those guys come with their own set of risks as well.

And, of course, there’s also the fact that signing a free agent this winter does nothing to help you win in 2012. Yes, if you think you could get Greinke for something close to that same $110 million you’d be committing to Lee, then you might prefer the younger pitcher, but present value has to be a factor as well, and the contending Dodgers are in the sweet spot where every marginal upgrade represents a significant return.

The upgrade would over Stephen Fife — who has racked up a whopping seven strikeouts in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A — would likely add about +1.5 wins to the Dodgers regular season total, and Lee would represent a substantial upgrade to their potential playoff rotation as well. Going from second place finisher to NL West champions could return as much as $30 to $40 million in additional revenues if the Dodgers made a World Series run. Even a first round playoff victory probably nets the team an additional $5 to $10 million in revenue from future ticket sales and the attendance boost that goes with generating excitement in the fan base. …

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and Dylan Hernandez of the Times have more, as does Buster Olney of ESPN.com: “Before the deadline, the Phillies made it clear to any team interested in Lee that not only would they not pick up any of the $97 million owed to the left-hander, they also would want top prospects in return. So it’d be a shocker if the Phillies moved Lee in a waiver deal.”

* * *

  • Yasiel Puig has played his first two games as a Dodger minor-leaguer, going 0 for 4 in his first but hitting a single and triple in his second. ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted after the triple that Puig “didn’t even square it up but still sent it about 400 feet to LCF track.” Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness passed along video of Puig’s debut from Jason Cole of Lone Star Dugout.
  • Whose spots on the Dodger 40-man roster might be expiring? Petriello takes a look.
  • Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. is examining the Dodger farm system, position by position. Here’s catcher and first base.
  • James Gentile of Beyond the Box Score writes about “Hanley Ramirez and Disappointing Primes.”
  • A Martinez is going public, with a 9 a.m. weekdays sports radio show on NPR’s KPCC 89.3 FM, reports Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
  • Framework has a photo showing Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour raising money for the 1952 U.S. Olympic team at a telethon.
Jul 13

The resurrection of John Ely

One-time breath of fresh air John Ely is quietly having a stellar 2012, posting a 3.22 ERA in Triple-A Albuquerque with 9.7 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine innings. You just don’t see those stats with the Isotopes very often. James Bailey of Baseball America has more on the Pacific Coast League All-Star.

“It took a couple of years of getting my head beat off the wall a little bit in this league to try to figure it out a little bit,” Ely told Bailey. “The PCL can get to you, man. Ask anybody out here. It’s a tough league to pitch in with the travel and the ballparks and the matter that you’ve got some pretty darn good hitters in this league. I think I underestimated it a little and I probably didn’t take it quite as seriously as I should have.”

“A lot of it has to do with staying ahead and basically just throwing my best pitches when I have to throw them,” Ely added. “You know, making pitches when you need to and realizing, ‘OK, this is what I want to do with this pitch right now.’ ”

Though the Dodgers’ rumored trade-market pursuits include starting pitching, Ely would certainly seem to have some renewed value – either as a stopgap starter if the Dodgers still end up needing one, or as a trade chip.

* * *

  • Andre Ethier played in rehabiliation games Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to join Matt Kemp in tonight’s Dodger starting lineup, writes Alex Angert of MLB.com.
  • Ronald Belisario’s certainly got the right to go home to Venezuela during the All-Star break, but somehow it isn’t surprising that his return to the States was delayed, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com (pictured, right, with Ned Colletti). However, Belisario is expected to arrive for tonight’s game.
  • Yasiel Puig’s arrival in Arizona is documented by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
  • Kemp will be featured on the next edition of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, premiering Tuesday.
  • A midseason review of the Isotopes is provided by Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • It’s a quirk to say the least, but Zach Greinke of Milwaukee tonight will become the first pitcher since 1917 to start three consecutive games, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. He faces James McDonald of Pittsburgh.
Jun 29

Age is just a number (even if it’s the wrong number)

Mets at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, 3B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
James Loney, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

I’ve spent most of the year thinking I’m the wrong age. What does this have to do with the Dodgers and R.A. Dickey? Maybe nothing at all, but find out the scoop at Los Angeles Magazine’s CityThink blog.

Jun 28

Report: Dodgers sign Cuban outfielder Puig in $40 million deal


The Dodgers have gone from spendthrifts to spendswifts.  From Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com:

According to an industry source, the Dodgers have agreed to a multiyear deal worth more than $40 million with 21-year-old international prospect Yasiel Puig, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder from Cuba.

The Dodgers haven’t commented on or confirmed the signing.

Puig (pronounced Pweeg) was declared a free agent Wednesday, not long after establishing temporary residency in Mexico, and was eventually cleared by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

In order to avoid being subject to new CBA guidelines that will limit spending on international prospects to $2.9 million per team without penalty, Puig must sign the record-setting deal, have the contract approved by Major League Baseball and pass a physical before Monday.

The Cubs and White Sox also expressed interest in Puig.

A top prospect in the island’s premier league, the Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional), Puig hit .276 with five home runs during his first campaign with Cienfuegos in 2008-09 and had a breakout year the next season, hitting .330 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs. He did not play for Cienfuegos during the 2011-12 seasons because he was being disciplined for attempting to defect. …

Here’s more on Puig from J.P Breen of Fangraphs:

… Puig possesses raw power — and actually showed game-power back in the 2010-2011 season with 17 home runs — but Ben Badler of Baseball America recently noted that the most recent scouting reports on the young outfielder have been extremely underwhelming. …

Now, statistics from the Cuban Serie Nacional should obviously be taken with a grain of salt. The level of competition is perhaps not even comparable to what Puig would potentially see in Triple-A, but legitimate similarities exist between the numbers Yoenis Cespedes compiled in 2010-2011 and what Puig racked up in the same year.

Player 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG BB SO
Yasiel Puig 19 6 17 .330 .430 .581 49 39
Yoenis Cespedes 17 1 33 .333 .424 .667 49 40

The obvious difference is the significantly higher home run total from Cespedes. It’s that level of power that has allowed Cespedes to transition directly to the major leagues and post a .222 ISO as a 26-year-old without any experience in the United States.

The remainder of the numbers — the on-base percentage, strikeout-to-walk ratio, etc. — are comparable. Even the doubles are comparable. Puig reportedly has above-average speed and was once considered the “fastest player in Cuban baseball” before defecting, so it’s not overly surprising that Puig would collect more triples than Cespedes.

The issue is that no one can ever confidently project how a Cuban baseball player will transition to professional baseball in the states. The statistics have little correlation due to the level of competition, and the players have to adjust to more than just the players in the United States. They also have to transition to the lifestyle, the culture, and the language. That can be extremely overwhelming for anyone, much less a 21-year-old with ambition and plenty of cash, thanks to a hefty signing bonus. …

And from Ben Badler of Baseball America:

… Reports on Puig, 21, have been modest, and other than a few light workouts this weekend, teams are working off limited information. He was suspended this past season in Cuba—some sources believe it was due to his attempts to leave the country, though some teams have conflicting information—so scouts haven’t been able to see Puig in game condition since June 2011 for the Cuban national B team at the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam. The Rangers are the only team that Baseball America’s sources have linked to Puig.

“How can we evaluate someone like that?” asked one Latin American director.