Published on June 4, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Much of the 2016 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers has been an exercise in overcoming the injuries. This is particularly true for the team’s outfield, as Andre Ethier has yet to play this season after breaking his leg during spring training, while Carl Crawford, Alex Guerrero, Scott Van Slyke, and Howie Kendrick have all spent time on the DL. On Friday, Yasiel Puig became the latest player to join that long list of injuries, as the Dodgers placed him on the 15-day DL with strained hamstring.
Puig appeared as a pinch hitter for the Dodgers both Wednesday and Thursday, but he had not been healthy enough to start a game since Monday. The team has activated Van Slyke from the DL to take Puig’s place on the roster. Manager Dave Roberts says the plan was to activate Van Slyke on Sunday, but just before Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers decided to go ahead and put Puig on the DL.
“It was one of those where it was just a forthright conversation, trying to figure out where he was at,” Roberts explained. “We’re trying to play both sides, keep him available, but at some point we just had to make a decision on getting him healthy.” Ultimately, the Dodgers decided that they need Puig to be fully healthy. Roberts explained, “He’s not the player that he can be if he’s not healthy, especially with his legs, so we made that decision.” Injuries to both hamstrings cost Puig to miss 73 games last season.
Puig was on fire the first two weeks of the season. On April 17, he was hitting .356. But since then it’s been all downhill for the former Rookie of the Year. Puig is currently hitting .237 with a disappointing OPS of .643. To make matters worse, Roberts benched Puig last week when he didn’t run out a long fly ball that Puig thought was a home run but just turned into a long single.
With Puig absent for at least 15 days, Van Slyke and Trace Thompson should see increased playing time. Thompson, who came over from the Chicago White Sox this past winter, is having a big season for the Dodgers, hitting .280 with nine home runs. Van Slyke has just 10 at bats in the majors this season, spending most of the year on the DL or in the minors, but he figures to get a fair shot to prove himself with Puig out and the aging Carl Crawford hitting just .185. Howie Kendrick has also started 11 games in left field this season.
In the short term, the Dodgers should have enough outfield depth to survive without Puig for a few weeks. However, with a 5.5 game deficit to make up in the NL West, at some point they will need Puig to be healthy and play like he did in 2013 and 2014. If Los Angeles doesn’t get the Puig of old back, they may have a tough time returning to the postseason, while Puig could end up spending more time on the bench, even after he returns from the DL.