During the offseason and spring training the big stories about Puig was related to off the field issues like traffic offenses and the amazing story of his exit from Cuba. For all of the success Puig was having on the field there were still question marks about how the young star approaches the game, his tendency for make errors on the base paths and his approach to the game. When the Dodgers opened the season in Australia first baseman Adrian Gonzalez purportedly took Puig aside to challenge him to improve multiple areas of his game. Some of the indiscretions of Puig, led some baseball analysts to question whether or not Puig would continue his ascension to superstardom.Well, what a difference a month makes. Six weeks into the season Puig is arguably the best player in the National League, with numbers that rival those put together by fellow Southern California star Mike Trout during his first two seasons. While the Dodgers are in third place and struggling to keep pace with the Giants in the division, Puig is playing like an MVP. His combination of speed and power has ignited the top of the Dodgers lineup, along with second baseman Dee Gordon. Forty-three games into the season Puig has demonstrated better patience at the plate, and is in the midst of a fifteen game hitting streak. Puig leads the Dodgers with a .333 average, 33 runs batted in, a .422 OBP and a tremendous 1.012 OPS. Like a true MVP candidate Puig has shined with runners on base. With runners in scoring position Puig is hitting .408 with 28 RBI. With two outs and runners in scoring position Puig’s average rises to .455 with 18 RBI.
Can Puig win the MVP?From a sheer performance standpoint he should be a top candidate. The key is whether or not the Dodgers get out of their early season doldrums. The Dodgers poor record is a bit of a mystery considering the individual position areas have performed well. The bullpen has struggled at times, blowing some late game and extra innings lead, but that should turn around. The Giants have started strong but as spring turns into summer the Dodgers should heat up and make their run towards the top of the National League West.
Puig will have stiff competition from players like Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton and fellow Dodger Adrian Gonzalez. Tulowitzki and Stanton, who have led their respective teams to surprising starts, are the top two candidates so far. The Marlins and Rockies will likely fall back to the pack while the Dodgers should contend. If Puig can continue his impressive numbers he should be right in the thick of the MVP conversation.
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