Earlier this month, the Braves suffered a bit of a hit to their outfield options when Nick Markakis made the incredibly understandable decision to opt out of the 2020 season. Atlanta had a “good problem” on their hands when it came to the 36-year-old veteran being used as one of many options for the outfield during the upcoming seasons, but naturally the Braves probably didn’t want that “problem” to be solved by subtraction. Unfortunately for the Braves, that ended up being the case and they were placed in a scenario where they were now missing in Markakis a hitter who could be serve as an effective option against right-handed pitching as a lefty hitter, himself.
So with that option out of the way, the Braves decided to reach out to the free agent market for some help. Lo and behold, there was a Yasiel Puig sighting at The Battery in Cobb County and he wasn’t there to do some shopping. It turns out that he was there on business and now Yasiel Puig is going to be a member of the Braves for this 60-game season. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a big leap from what the production in RF was projected to be with the options the Braves already had and what the production will be with Puig holding down that position in the field — especially since he’s coming into Atlanta’s fold on a bit of a down note after he had an underwhelming season for his standards while bouncing between the two Ohio baseball clubs.
The big caveat there is that Puig being brought in as a replacement for Markakis could end up being an upgrade since a “down year” for the 29-year-old Cuban slugger is still good enough to make him a league-average hitter in baseball right now. That type of production means that as long as we’re talking about an ideal situation where the Braves are as healthy as they can possibly be, they won’t have to worry about right field being a platoon anymore. The Braves likely aren’t signing an career 124 wRC+ hitter who is under 30 to split time on a platoon hitter. They are probably going to just stick him out there in right field and deal with the passable level of defense while reaping the benefits of the pop in his bat.
Puig’s pop is a big reason to get excited. As far as the wRC+ comparison between Markakis and Puig goes, Markakis actually had the edge by one point by last year. Where Puig should pick up the slack is going to be in his power — Puig’s career Isolated Power is near the magic number of .200 that indicates that a guy is a serious threat to do damage to the baseball. His Isolated Power was at .191 to finish 2019, which was a precipitous drop from the .227 and .224 numbers that he finished 2018 and 2017 with, respectively. If Puig can get that number back to being above .200 during this season, the Braves should be happy with the results. This would normally be the part where I’d say that we can probably pencil Puig in for at least 20 dingers, but this is the Weird Season that we’re dealing with here so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that Puig is probably going to be a good bet to hit a decent number of home runs this season.
Judging by Puig’s slash lines over the past four seasons, it seems like the power is the only thing that was out of the ordinary when it came to his 2019 season and even with that, he still hit 24 homers and wasn’t that far away from having a .200 ISO. I’m not going to tell you that he’s going to return to his 2013-2014 Puig-a-Mania status any time soon — I’m saying that he’s going to be good for a stat line that would be comparable to a season between 1.0 and 3.0 WAR. If he’s closer to a comparable 3.0 WAR season, then Alex Anthopoulos will be pleased with this reunion, Braves fans should be pretty happy with what he brought to the table and the locker room should also appreciate the fact that Puig was indeed able to come in and be a capable replacement for Nick Markakis.
As far as the whole Yasiel Puig “Experience” that you’ll probably hear a lot about, I’m actually looking forward to see how he’ll mesh with the team. One of the underrated aspects of Atlanta’s success in the past couple of seasons has been the fact that they seemingly have as strong of a clubhouse culture as anybody does in baseball right now. You rarely hear about discord or internal battles with the Braves and there very likely won’t be any issues with that with Puig in the fold. If that was the case then Alex Anthopoulos probably wouldn’t have considered signing the former Dodger to a deal and Puig wouldn’t have been in consideration anywhere else.
Plus, anybody who is responsible for bringing about one of the greatest baseball paintings of all-time is always welcome.
When it comes down to just simply discussing winning, Yasiel Puig has spent a lot of time on winning clubs. He broke in with the Dodgers in 2013, which is also when Los Angeles began their reign atop the NL West that’s still going on right now. Puig finished the 2019 season in Cleveland, who finished the season with 93 wins. Every team that Puig has been on has finished the season with at least 90 wins — additionally, the man is still a beloved figure in LA’s fanbase and he definitely left a good impression on Cleveland’s organization and fans during the little time he spent there. The Braves are a good bet to be a good team this season, and Puig has done nothing but mesh well with good teams for his entire career. I’d imagine that the Braves clubhouse and Puig are going to go together like a hand in a glove and I’d be shocked if there are any issues going forward. He’s a winner and the Braves need winners.
All-in-all, I’m pretty excited to see how things develop in Atlanta for Puig. He’s always been an extremely entertaining player to follow from a neutral standpoint, and now we get the pleasure of being able to cheer him on as this season progresses. At the very least, the Braves are going to get a league-average hitter who should fit right in with the clubhouse. If we get anything similar to this, then that would be an extremely lovely bonus and we’ll all be happy Braves fans by the end of baseball season.