Dissenting Opinions: Price check on Yasiel Puig

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Dissenting Opinions: Price check on Yasiel Puig
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Yasiel Puig broke out in a big way in 2013, then broke down in 2015. Puig is the No. 23 outfielder selected in an average Yahoo draft so far this year, and there exists a wide range of opinions about him within the fantasy expert community. Dalton Del Don ranks Puig as a top-15 outfield option, while Andy Behrens slots him outside his top-35. Let's play the feud...

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Dalton Del Don is pro-Puig: 

Puig is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons and is dangerously close to being slapped with the injury-prone tag. He’s also been successful on just 25-of-43 SB attempts throughout his career, so I get why some owners are fed up with waiting for the huge breakout many keep calling for. But this is a player who hit .319/.391/.534 with 19 homers over 382 at bats as a 22-year-old.

While he failed to build on that huge rookie campaign in 2014, Puig still posted a .382 OBP, scored 92 runs, hit 16 homers and swiped 11 bags in fewer than 150 games. Last season’s performance really can be written off by a couple of nasty hamstring injuries that affected him at the plate and on the field.

Puig has reportedly lost 15 pounds during the offseason and has had the slate “wiped clean” with the Dodgers after they fired Don Mattingly, and it’s telling Los Angeles hasn’t traded him with all the off field transgressions. It’s possible Puig remains a knucklehead, but this is a physical specimen just barely entering his prime who will be batting in the middle of a loaded lineup.

It was encouraging Puig started hitting the ball more in the air last year, but even when he was hitting so many grounders, he was fifth in major league baseball with a 152 wRC+ from 2013-2014 (his first two years in the league). The only players ahead of him were Trout, Cabrera, McCutchen and Goldschmidt.

With that kind of upside, I feel like I’m almost shorting Puig ranking him as my No. 12 outfielder, but the best part is he won’t cost nearly that price in 2016, just one year after he was widely considered worthy of a second round pick. Puig’s ADP is 66.8, as he’s the No. 24 outfielder off the board in Yahoo leagues, which makes him easily one of my favorite targets at any position this season. Go get him.

Behrens isn't having any Puig:

An investment in Puig is not entirely without risk. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
An investment in Puig is not entirely without risk. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

For our purposes here, let's forget the various off-the-field concerns connected to Puig that don't directly impact his fantasy value. Here, we care only about the numbers Puig is likely to deliver in 2016, coming off a disastrous season. I'll concede that the year ahead is likely to be much better than 2015, when he dealt with hamstring issues and an erosion of plate discipline. When healthy, Puig has been a dangerous hitter. Entering his age-25 season, he's slashed .294/.371/.487 over 331 career MLB games. I'm not trying to tell you that Puig can't play.

However, I think far too many fantasy owners continue to view Puig as we all did back in 2013, when the possibilities seemed almost unlimited. Over the past three seasons, we've learned quite a bit about this player's traits and tendencies. If you still feel as if he's capable of delivering a 30/30 campaign — or 35/20, or some such thing — then you obviously think he can become a fundamentally different hitter. We're still waiting for Puig's first 20-homer season, and he doesn't exactly fit the profile of an upper-tier slugger.

Puig has been a groundball machine over his three MLB seasons (49.5 career GB%), and it's not as if he's clearing fences every time he hits a flyball. His HR/FB rate since entering the league is 14.6, which ranks just behind Alex Avila and just ahead of Kelly Johnson — respectable enough, but hardly special. No one should see these batted-ball rates and forecast 30-plus homers. Additionally, Puig has been a thoroughly unimpressive base-stealing threat, succeeding only 25 times in his 43 career attempts. At that rate, he should probably stop running altogether.

Add it all up, and I see a player with a 25/15 ceiling in terms of power and speed. And that's great, but it isn't exceptional by the standards of his position. We aren't getting a massive power season from Puig, nor a significant stolen base total, and the injury risk here is at least slightly elevated. If I have to draft him as a top-25 outfielder, I'll never own him.

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