One year after getting demoted to the minors for a month, Yasiel Puig stayed relatively injury free in 2017 and was a force on both offense and defense for the Dodgers.
What went right
Puig hit a career-best 28 home runs and played in a personal-best 152 games, the latter seven more games played than any other Dodger in 2017.
After stealing 30 bases at a 60% clip in his first four seasons, Puig swiped a career-high 15 bases in 21 attempts (71.4%) in 2017. He joined Chris Taylor (21 HR, 17 SB) as the first pair of Dodgers teammates with 15 home runs and 15 steals since Adrian Beltre and Raul Mondesi in 1999.
He carried over his success into the postseason, hitting .286/.386/.515 with three home runs, 10 RBI and six extra-base hits in 15 games, the only Dodger to play every inning of every game*.
*Narrowly beating Brandon Morrow.
Puig hit two game-winning home runs in the Dodgers’ final at-bat, and had a walk-off two-run double to erase a deficit and beat the White Sox on Aug. 18.
Puig had his best year defensively — setting career highs in Defensive Runs Saved (+18 runs), Ultimate Zone Rating (+12.1) and Total Zone Rating (+11). He was a finalist for a National League Gold Glove in right field, but finished behind winner Jason Heyward, an outcome Puig vowed to rectify in 2018. Puig was named the best defensive right fielder in baseball by Wilson.
“This was my best season,” Puig said in October.
More than anything Puig brought an energy this season that was infectious, and his chaos for the most part controlled and channeled for good. After all, you don’t see many players celebrating like this on the bases:
What went wrong
Puig had a weird reverse split in 2017, batting just .183/.317/.275 against left-handed pitchers, though he did walk more (24) than he struck out (18) in his 145 plate appearances against southpaws.
Though Puig primarily avoided the distractions that plagued his younger days, he did have an instance that mushroomed in September, the timing of which could have derailed (but didn’t) a stellar season. Puig ended a game on Sept. 24 against the Giants with a caught stealing at second base while not sliding, then complained of an ankle injury for which he failed to get treatment.
Dave Roberts benched Puig the next day and mentioned “trust issues,” and the situation multiplied when Puig showed up late the next day for a scheduled early batting practice session. He was benched for a second day, but that was basically it. Puig followed the incident by going 5-for-12 (.417) with two home runs and three walks in the final five games of the season.
Stats: .263/.346/.487, 28 HR, 15 SB in 152 games, 118 OPS+, 117 wRC+
Salary: $6.5 million
Game of the year
Down 4-3 with two outs in the ninth inning and the Dodgers down to their final strike, Puig hit a three-run home run against Marlins closer A.J. Ramos to key a 6-4 victory, the seventh win in a season-long 11-game win streak. Puig was 2-for-4 with two home runs in the July 14 game, the Dodgers’ first contest after the All-Star break.
Puig has four years, 102 days of major league service time and has a fourth option year remaining, though after accruing 70 more days (June 5 is the earliest possible date) he will have five years of service time and the right to refuse any assignment to the minors.
Puig will make $7.5 million in 2018, and has one more year of arbitration eligibility in 2019.