Yasiel Puig, 24, outfielder.
Final 2014 stats: .296 batting average, 16 homers, 69 RBI, nine triples, 92 runs, 67 walks, 124 strikeouts and .392 on-base and .480 slugging percentages in 640 plate appearances.
Contract status: Signed for four more years on his original seven-year, $42 million deal (can opt into arbitration after three years of major league service time).
The good: Tied with Dee Gordon for team high in runs, was second in triples, third in doubles, and fourth in RBI and stolen bases. Led team in walks and was second in strikeouts. Had three errors in 272 chances, playing right and center. National League Player of the Month for May (.298, eight homers, 25 RBI, .492 on-base and .731 slugging percentages) and made his first All-Star team. Led all NL outfielders with 15 assists. Moved to center without complaint.
The bad: Went through a 30-game stretch into the middle of September when he batted .183 with no homers and 29 strikeouts in 115 at-bats. Demonstrated improvement but still needs work hitting the cutoff man and running bases. Showed up late for season opener and was benched. Still needs sliding lessons. Got yelled at by, of all people, Matt Kemp in Dodgers’ dugout in mid-September, presumably for his poor base running. Struck out eight times in nine at-bats in playoffs and was benched for final Game 4.
What’s next: More growth, hopefully.
The take: Welcome to the team’s most dynamic and controversial player. With Puig, it’s always something. Good, great, head-scratching, something.
The talent just pours out of him. His sophomore season wasn’t a whole lot unlike his short rookie season, packed with dramatic highs and lows. Next season will be his third, however, and the Dodgers need him to step up the maturity level, and there are no guarantees on that.
Gone are Hanley Ramirez and Kemp, leaving Puig the main right-handed power source, though despite that Greek god physique, you have to wonder if Yoenis Cespedes’ evaluation of Puig wasn't correct when he said the fellow Cuban “was not really a home-run hitter.”
That’s OK, too, as long as he hits line drives and shows that explosive speed. He very much remains a work in progress, but such a work. The feeling remains that Puig will become as great a player as he wants to be. He still drives coaches and teammates crazy the way he too often saunters into the clubhouse at the last minute and has mental lapses in a game.
The Dodgers are firmly committed to their budding superstar, however. Despite all that youthful energy and excitement he can display on the field, it’s not like the team can continually look past his transgressions. He’s 24 and entering his third season, with the team actually depending on him now. As always, that should prove interesting.