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Why Yasiel Puig in center field might be the Dodgers' best move

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly says he has thought about playing Yasiel Puig in center field
Yasiel Puig's speed and aggressiveness could make him a natural to play in center field
Yasiel Puig could prove to be the best center fielder on the Dodgers' roster

So it’s whatever makes Matt Kemp feel all comfy and cozy? Not really, though there does seem some of that.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday he’s thinking of moving Yasiel Puig to center, which would allow Kemp to remain in right.

This after an entire one-game experiment that happened only because of injury to Puig.

Whatever, the move makes sense on one level: With his speed and aggressiveness, Puig would seem a natural center fielder. Aside from that part where he does his human pinball routine.

That’s the great fear with Puig, that he’ll bulldoze over another outfielder -- or perish the thought, poor little Dee Gordon – in his all-out effort to catch everything within the local area code.

Mattingly said he had considered the move of Puig to center previously, but pushed the idea aside.

“Pretty much because he’s out of control most of the time,” Mattingly said.

Or he feared arrest for putting innocent lives at risk.

Puig has played 10 games in center, though you always watched with fingers crossed in hope there would be no hanging drive in the gaps. But this season Puig has cut down on his wildness, to the point where earlier this year Mattingly called him the best right fielder in baseball.

So why would you think of switching positions of the best right fielder in baseball?

Because he could easily prove one of the best in center, the key outfield spot. Currently the Dodgers have a semi-platoon in center, starting Andre Ethier against right-handers and Scott Van Slyke against left-handers. Neither are exactly fleet of foot and what you would consider the prototypical center fielder.

Kemp proved so unreliable in center, Mattingly understandably prefers having someone who will at least make a correct break on the ball and run the proper route. Kemp, however, has said repeatedly he still considers himself a center fielder and has never looked truly comfortable in left.

But for reasons he may not even understand, Kemp does seem to be OK playing in right. And for one night at least, he looked comfortable out there.

“It felt natural,” he said after Monday’s game.

If Mattingly does make the move, it would mean Ethier would have to change positions yet again this season. That’s not ideal, either, since he would be theoretically sharing playing time with fellow left-handed hitting outfielder Carl Crawford in left. And then there’s Van Slyke, starting against left-handers?

Still awfully messy, but if Kemp can approximate the Kemp who was once runner-up for the National League MVP, it could be the foundation of the Dodgers’ best lineup.

It’s pretty late in the season to consider making such a significant move, but it’s not like the offense has been living up to its supposed potential. Mattingly’s stated goal has always been to field the best possible lineup every game.

And his best lineup could easily be with Puig, starting center fielder. Just make sure to issue the helmet and pads to corner outfielders.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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