MLB

COVID-19 Might Detrail Yasiel Puig’s Potential for a Rebound Season

Yasiel Puig is a polarizing player with the skills needed to be a superstar. But he doesn’t always have the focus needed to live up to his potential. After finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, Puig has not been able to match those stats.

The 29-year-old is coming off a disappointing end to the 2019 season. As the delayed, shortened season gets underway, Puig remains unsigned. He seemed to have a deal with the Braves that would’ve given him a chance to rebound in 2020. But the deal didn’t happen when he contracted COVID-19.

The ups and downs of Yasiel Puig

The Dodgers signed Puig as an amateur free agent in June 2012, and he made his major league debut the following June. He would go on to play in 104 games in 2013, impressing baseball fans with a .319 average, 19 home runs, and 42 RBI as a rookie; he also stole 11 bases.

Within two years, his average dropped by more than 60 points, and he wouldn’t surpass 19 homers in a season until 2017, when he smashed a career-best 28, but that came with a .263 average. In 2018, he hit .267 with 23 homers and 63 RBI. The Dodgers traded him to the Reds as part of a multiplayer deal in the subsequent offseason.

Puig’s 2019 season

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Puig played 100 games for the Reds in 2019 before they sent him to the Indians in a three-team trade. He played 49 games with them to finish the season. Overall for the year, he hit .267 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI. He had 19 stolen bases as well.

But Puig’s production fell off late in the season, he hit just two home runs in 182 at-bats with the Indians after hitting 22 in 373 at-bats with the Reds. Puig became a free agent after the season, and the Indians didn’t give him a new contract.

Potential for a big 2020 season?

Puig remained unsigned entering the original Spring Training in the winter — and throughout the coronavirus-related suspension of the season. It seemed like Puig had found a home for the shortened season in July. Reports said he’d sign a contract with the Braves.

Atlanta seemed to be a good landing spot for the 29-year-old. There would be opportunities for playing time for him. Puig, an outfielder, would’ve likely gotten a lot of opportunities in the lineup as the designated hitter as the DH comes to the National League for the first time this season.

The Braves had been planning on using Nick Markakis as their regular DH. But he opted out of the season, which likely led to the possibility of signing Puig.

A lost 2020 season for Puig? 

The deal with the Braves was never consummated, though. Puig announced on Twitter on July 17 that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. That was enough to scare the Braves off of the reported deal, as MLB Trade Rumors reported.

Puig’s tweet said he was asymptomatic. He can be cleared to play after receiving two negative tests, which may not take long if he’s not experiencing symptoms. At that point, a team might sign Puig and he’ll be able to play for part of the 60-game season.

The Braves signed Matt Adams after the deal with Puig fell through. But they may still be interested in signing for the Cuban player when he gets the necessary negative tests. Whenever Puig is signed — if he is –there may be only 50 games, or fewer, left in the truncated season. He may not have much time to prove he’s improved since last season.