Updating the Puig / Clemente timeline

RobertoClemente

In March of 2018, I took a long look at a view I’ve long maintained that Yasiel Puig could eventually have a career similar to HOF Roberto Clemente.

Most baseball fans think of Clemente as the man who died a hero but in his early 20’s he was an enigmatic player who many felt wasn’t getting the most of his tools. It wasn’t until Roberto turned 28 that he put all of his tools together and became one of the best right fielders in baseball

They are not physically alike but they are both from the islands off of Florida, right-handed hitting right fielders with arms of their generation. They both started out their careers either misunderstood or immature depending on your point of view.

Is Puig still on that pace?

Puig actually had a much better age 27 season than did Clemente. The difference being that Puig started being platooned in 2018 while Clemente was doing his 3rd straight year of over 580 plate appearances. Once again Puig had the much better offensive season at the same age but that is going change. Roberto never had an OPS+ below 138 from age 28 – 37 so I Puig wants to start putting on his HOF case, he is going to have to step up his game just as Roberto did. Roberto had also won two gold gloves in a row but it is isn’t like Puig isn’t an outstanding defensive right fielder even if he hasn’t won a gold glove yet.  .

Player Age WAR/pos OPS+ BA OBP SLG OPS
Roberto Clemente 20-27 24.6 105 0.300 0.334 0.434 0.768
G PA R H
1061 4374 569 1230
2B 3B HR RBI
191 67 75 495
Player Age WAR/pos OPS+ BA OBP SLG OPS
Yasiel Puig 22-27 18.6 127 0.279 0.353 0.478 0.831
G PA R H
712 2765 365 686
2B 3B HR RBI
129 19 108 331

Puig:

Year    Age   Tm   PA   R   H  2B 3B  HR  OPS OPS+      Awards
2013     22  LAD  432  66 122  21  2  19 .925  159 MVP-15RoY-2
2014     23  LAD  640  92 165  37  9  16 .863  145    ASMVP-19
2015     24  LAD  311  30  72  12  3  11 .758              110
2016     25  LAD  368  45  88  14  2  11 .740               98
2017     26  LAD  570  72 131  24  2  28 .833              119
2018     27  LAD  444  60 108  21  1  23 .820              120
6 Yr   6 Yr 6 Yr 2765 365 686 129 19 108 .831              127
162     162  162  629  83 156  29  4  25 .831              127

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/7/2018.
Clemente:

Year    Age   Tm    PA    R    H  2B  3B  HR  OPS OPS+       Awards
1955     20  PIT   501   48  121  23  11   5 .666                77
1956     21  PIT   572   66  169  30   7   7 .761               106
1957     22  PIT   474   42  114  17   7   4 .637                73
1958     23  PIT   556   69  150  24  10   6 .736                95
1959     24  PIT   456   60  128  17   7   4 .718                92
1960     25  PIT   620   89  179  22   6  16 .815  121    ASASMVP-8
1961     26  PIT   614  100  201  30  10  23 .949  150  ASASMVP-4GG
1962     27  PIT   581   95  168  28   9  10 .805  114 ASASMVP-17GG

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/7/2018.

The word is that Puig is on the trading block this winter. The Dodgers have a plethora of outfielders and might want to get their top prospect Alex Verdugo into the everyday lineup. Puig is in the last year of his contract and will be arbitration eligible after next year but the Dodgers control him through the 2020 season.

Dodgers fans seem to have a love/hate relationship with Puig, and I don’t mean the kind where you love him one minute and hate him the next. You either love his theatrical antics or you hate them.  Since he joined the Dodgers in June of 2013 he has been one of the top right fielders in all of baseball.  It is a tough class with some of the biggest names in baseball but Puig is right there having accumulated the exact bWAR as George Springer in about the same number of plate appearances.

Player              OPS+ WAR/pos From   To   Age   PA  HR   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
J.D. Martinez        147    20.5 2013 2018 25-30 3102 178 .301 .361 .564 .926
Giancarlo Stanton    144    26.9 2013 2018 23-28 3327 212 .267 .361 .545 .906
Bryce Harper         143    22.2 2013 2018 20-25 3360 162 .281 .396 .519 .915
Mookie Betts         134    35.2 2014 2018 21-25 2923 110 .303 .370 .518 .888
George Springer      128    18.7 2014 2018 24-28 2789 121 .265 .356 .468 .824
Yasiel Puig          127    18.6 2013 2018 22-27 2765 108 .279 .353 .478 .831
Jose Bautista        123    16.5 2013 2018 32-37 3469 161 .241 .360 .463 .823
Josh Reddick         111    17.8 2013 2018 26-31 2885  84 .268 .331 .430 .761
Jason Heyward         97    21.1 2013 2018 23-28 3261  64 .263 .338 .392 .730

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/7/2018.

Puig might be unhappy with being platooned this past summer and while platooning has advantages not many players get the reverse platoon like Puig does. Puig used to crush left hand pitching with a 1.003 OPS in 2013, .934 OPS in 2015 but over the past two years, he has hit like a pitcher against LHP. If Puig can get back to crushing LHP he will make the leap to an elite player, if not, at least he crushes the arm side that most often pitches in major league baseball.

Honestly, I think this will be the last time I do this type of story on Puig/Clemente. Clemente is about to hurtle himself into the HOF starting with his age 28 season. Puig might be getting ready to become the next Raul Mondesi who peaked at age 26 and never became the player that looked like a star at age 26 in 1997. I probably should have been doing those comparisons instead.

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