We have been waiting… And waiting… And waiting for Yasiel Puig to find a new home and yesterday we finally learned where he’d be playing in 2020. Despite various rumors throughout the past few months it’s Atlanta where he’ll call home. It’s a little bit of a surprise, but with Freddie Freeman sidelined (with no known return date at this time) and Nick Markakis opting out the move makes some sense.
Let’s take a look at the outlook for Puig, as well as the fallout of some other key players impacted by the move:
Obviously the biggest impact of the decision is on Puig himself. He’s coming off a season where he hit .267 with 24 HR and 19 SB, his third straight 20/15 campaign, as he split time with the Reds and Indians. There’s no questioning the upside, but considering he didn’t sign during the initial Spring Training and is obviously late arriving to “Summer Camp” he’s going to be behind other hitters in terms of readiness.
Further complicating that point is the questions already surrounding his approach. Just look at the SwStr% // O-Swing% over the past few years:
- 2016 – 13.5% // 30.6%
- 2017 – 10.5% // 29.3%
- 2018 – 10.5% // 31.1%
- 2019 – 13.6% // 34.2%
Considering the layoff it’s easy to expect the strikeout rate to rise (especially early in the season) with pitchers already owning an advantage to the hitters. He also doesn’t feature an elite Exit Velocity (in ’19 he had an 89.9, placing him 81st among qualified hitters) or Launch Angle (14.2, tying him for 87th among qualified hitters), further complicating the outlook.
Could Puig be a difference maker with his blend of power and speed? Absolutely, but we also wouldn’t be willing to bank on it. He’s at a disadvantage and could struggle to find his footing.
Loser – Austin Riley
It appeared like Riley would find a defensive home, but unless the Braves opt to move Ronald Acuna to CF there’s suddenly no room in the OF (Acuna and Puig should be locks) or at DH (where Marcell Ozuna should get the bulk of the AB). In the short-term Riley could man 1B, until Freeman is deemed ready (though Yonder Alonso is also an option), or he could beat Johan Camargo for the 3B job. However when everyone is healthy he’s no longer guaranteed regular AB.
Considering the questions already facing him, as we’ve previously discussed (click here to view), his value is plummeting.
Loser – Ender Inciarte
Inciarte could be unaffected by the addition of Puig, but the team could also opt to throw out an outfield of Puig, Acuna and Ozuna with someone else manning the DH spot (Riley, perhaps). That would mean a loss of value for Inciarte, which was already questionable after he hit .246 with 7 SB in 230 PA in ’19. His value comes solely from his speed, but he’s no longer a fixture atop the order so he’s a one-trick pony (he won’t score as many runs) and even that isn’t elite (he’s never stolen more than 28 bases in a season).
If he starts finding himself on the bench, his value would obviously be nil.
Winner – Marcell Ozuna
Ozuna is going to be a starter regardless of the spot, but if he’s locked into the DH role he should be able to stay healthy and focus solely on what he does best. That’s only going to help his outlook, and considering we already had him as a Top 15 Outfielder he’s an easy selection and a player worth targeting in all formats.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, MLB.com
Make sure to check out all of our Updated 2020 preseason rankings: