Trouble in fantasy baseball paradise: Yasiel Puig's off-the-field concerns

      April 18, 2014 @ 09:54:29 PDT

Yasiel Puig was a rookie sensation in 2013, exploding onto the MLB scene and captivating Dodgers and baseball fans alike with his heroics and natural baseball abilities.

If you were smart enough to grab him off the waiver wire before any of your fantasy baseball league mates could get their hands on him, your team was probably carried by the Cuban import last season.

Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
A Hollywood life for Puig

This week, Puig has been in the news for his off-the-field exploits. ESPN The Magazine detailed Puig's process of defecting Cuba in 2012 and reported that he has received death threats from the human traffickers that smuggled him into Mexico in order for him to gain residency in his attempt to become a professional ballplayer in the States.

Puig is special. There's no debating that. But at what point do his off-the-field concerns and mental lapses outweigh his natural five-tool talent on the diamond? Skipper Don Mattingly has publicly voiced his displeasure with some of Puig's antics, and now he's worried for his right fielder's safety and mental well-being.

No doubt the tale of Puig's escape from Cuba is something worthy of a screenplay in Hollywood (Puig even admitted that himself), and it's a lot for a 23-year-old to deal with, let alone his rapid rise in pro baseball in a country that he's still adapting to.

I think we're just now starting to understand and comprehend some of the things this young man is having to deal with in his life. Forget about baseball for a second. He's growing up before our eyes on the baseball field and making plenty of mistakes along the way while dealing with some pretty heavy stuff.

On top of all of that, he has the weight of trying to overcome the dreaded sophomore slump on his shoulders. A .250/.333/.396 start with one home run and 5 RBIs in 13 games isn't the way his owners envisioned his start to the season. Pitchers are adjusting to his game, but does Puig have what it takes between the ears to put everything else aside and take the next step?

It's debatable, but the good news is that seems to be the only thing really holding him back. Puig is probably the type of fellow that needs the continuous support from his manager, teammates and others to help him get through what he's dealing with and keep all of his focus strictly on baseball.

Does he have that in L.A.? The fans have been behind him, but what if he continues to struggle? Will they think about trading him? His fantasy owners drafted him as a budding superstar, but it'll be an uphill battle this year for him to overcome everything.

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About Keith Hernandez

Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.

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