The Los Angeles Dodgers have failed to live up to lofty expectations with nearly one third of the 2013 season complete, but reinforcements are reportedly on the way.
Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers’ top prospect, has been called up from the Double-A Chattanooga, and will likely be the starting center fielder with Matt Kemp on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Puig posted outstanding numbers for the Dodgers in spring training, batting .517 with two home runs in 58 at-bats, and has a .982 on-base plus slugging percentage in 147 at-bats in the minors this season.
The Cuban defector signed a seven-year deal worth $42 million last year, and has drawn comparisons to Bo Jackson due to his athletic and bulky frame. Scouts have praised Puig as a well-rounded player with unlimited potential. To go along with his impressive hitting numbers, Puig has stolen 13 bases in the minors, and has a strong arm.
The 22-year-old joins a club struggling to climb the NL West standings, as offensive woes have carried over from last season. There had been considerable speculation that Puig deserved to be promoted to L.A. earlier in the season to strengthen the anemic lineup, but management believed he needed more time to refine his skills in the minors.
The Dodgers begin a homestand against the San Diego Padres Monday night after dropping their last two games in Denver against the Colorado Rockies. Puig bats from the right side of the plate and could make his debut with left-handed starter Eric Stults on the mound tonight.
The Dodgers have the 28th best offense in baseball as Kemp and Andre Ethier have not posted strong numbers, and with shortstop Hanley Ramirez missing all but four games this season. Opening-day third baseman Luis Cruz has had major struggles this season, prompting manager Don Mattingly to use reserves Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, and Jerry Hairston at the position.
Mattingly, who has been the subject of job-security questions in May, has also seen a sharp dip in production from the pitching staff. The Dodgers finished the 2012 season with a 3.34 ERA, and added high-priced starters Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the offseason. While Ryu has posted a 2.89 ERA, Greinke, Josh Beckett, and Chris Capuano have all seen their ERA surge this season. Opening-day closer Brandon League has blown three save opportunities and has a 5.31 ERA.
Former first-round draft pick Zach Lee is considered the Dodgers top pitching prospect, but there have been no reports of his possible promotion anytime soon. The 21-year-old right-hander has a 2.62 ERA in 58 and one-third innings in Chattanooga this season.
The Dodgers (23-32) are currently in last place in the division, and trail the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks by 8.5 games. New ownership took over last year, and significantly raised the 2013 payroll to roughly $217 million.