For one, it's still unknown how well the 23-year-old will be able to adjust to teams who will be trying to exploit weaknesses he revealed last season. His relative anonymity made it difficult for opponents to game-plan around him once he made the jump from Double-A to the majors last June. By season's end, though, it appeared that they had started to figure him out—he hit just .205 over his last 27 regular-season games and also struggled in the NLCS.
A second arrest for reckless driving in December—his first was back in April while he was playing in Double-A—also exposes his lack of maturity. In a team statement issued shortly afterward, the Dodgers said that Puig's behavior "is a very serious issue" to them.
And now, a 26-pound weight gain from the end of the regular season, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN.com, is yet another reason for manager Don Mattingly to question whether his young outfielder is ready to take the next step into major league superstardom.
"We don't feel it's going to be a problem, but we're paying attention to it, put it that way," Mattingly told ESPN Los Angeles.
Mattingly might not make a big deal about it to the media, but he understands how important Puig is to the team's success and the extremely high expectations that will follow his MVP-caliber performance from 2013.
At 251 pounds, Puig is only 16 pounds heavier than he was last spring when he reported to camp at a muscular 235 pounds. A young kid like Puig will probably bounce back in no time with some help from the trainers. But for such a young kid to unintentionally put on 25 pounds in such a short period of time—people aren't raving about his linebacker-esque physique this time around—should be a big concern.
While several players with less-than-impressive physiques have had long and successful big league careers, Puig's lack of discipline and a possible lack of motivation could very well be an indication that he will struggle at times to stay at the top of his game throughout his career.
The ease at which his success came as a rookie could be making it difficult. As Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax recently pointed out to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times when discussing some of Puig's on-the-field issues, Puig is able to make up for mistakes because of his physical ability.
"He's young. The biggest thing is he's not played against competition as good as he is. So you're always able to have your physical ability make up for whatever else you do. "He's learning. I'm sure it's going to happen. He has too much talent."
While Koufax was addressing Puig's theatrics on the field, his comments could easily be redirected to Puig's offseason and why he wasn't motivated to keep his weight in check.
Is it a case of too much success too early? At this time next year or maybe even a few years down the road, will we be discussing how Puig has learned from his mistakes and is now in the best shape of his career after slacking off in the past?
As much as Dodgers fans don't want to hear this, a really bad season could be the best thing for Puig and his career as opposed to one that might not be as good as last year but also isn't a complete disaster.
For Puig to reach his full potential and become a player who is consistently great, he'll need to work hard. For Puig to work hard, he needs to be motivated. For Puig to be motivated, he might need to be really bad at hitting a baseball after an offseason in which he spent driving recklessly—at least once—and gaining 26 pounds.
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