With injuries to Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez likely to keep both out of the Dodgers Opening Day lineup, the calls for Yasiel Puig to stay in the majors are getting louder and louder. Mark Timmons of LADodgerTalk.com is among those yelling for Puig while also reminding us that Puig is sure to experience a drop off from his ridiculous spring numbers, although his vision of a drop off to only a .300 batting average and .900 OPS are still quite optimistic.
So, let's figure this thing out once and for all.
Puig is obviously talented, but with the amount of time he took off from playing organized baseball during his defection, there is no telling how he will fare against major league pitching. He dominated the low minors last season, but then again, he should have. He's dominated spring training competition this year, but we've seen lots of marginal players do the same thing.
Puig has obviously hit the ball well this spring, but no walks in 52 plate appearances and an on-base percentage below his batting average scare me. It's not about drawing walks, but rather an indication of his approach at the plate. That's an awfully aggressive approach that will be exploited by major league pitching once there's an efficient scouting report on Puig. He did show a little more patience in his brief minor league stint last season, but is still generally regarded as an aggressive hitter and likely always will be.
The other factor in the equation are the needs of the Dodgers. With Ramirez still available to them, I reported that they were leaning towards a platoon situation to fill the void left by Crawford. It seems to weird to think that Puig, a corner outfielder, could replace Ramirez, a shortstop/third baseman, in the Dodgers lineup, but that's essentially what may happen. No, Puig won't be an infielder, but the void left by Ramirez, on top of the one left by Crawford, may be enough to force the Dodgers hand with Puig and bring him to the majors earlier than they had hoped.
The question for the Dodgers is whether they are desperate enough for early season offense, now that they are down two stars, to possibly jeopardize Puig's development, and it's a question only they can answer. Puig is still just 22-years-old and has the tools to become a star if he is afforded the time to refine his approach just a little bit. He won't take long in the minors, but a half-season or so there could do him wonders.
The other issue is what happens to Puig once Crawford comes back. Leaving Puig on the bench would be a worst-case scenario for a young, developing player, but with Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Either all in the lineup, there simply isn't place for him. If he does have success in the majors, it will be tough to send Puig back down or to sit him upon Crawford's return, giving the Dodgers a nice, but very real, problem.
I believe Puig belongs in the minors and needs at least a few months there to help him smooth out the rough parts of his game in order to let him make the most of his true abilities. At the same time, the Dodgers are bordering on desperation after the hype they've created this off-season and the money they've spent, coupled with the injuries they now face. Puig's hot spring has created it's own hype and will make it difficult for the Dodgers to send him down.
For Puig's benefit, he should head to the minors, but the Dodgers may be better off as a major league team if he breaks camp with the big league club. It may not be the best thing for Puig's development, but at this point, that may not be the Dodgers main concern.