Former MLB Cuban outfielder, Yasiel Puig has signed with Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball. The deal is reported to be 1-year, $1 million dollars. Puig averaged .277 and drove 415 runs with 132 home runs while stealing 79 bases over 7 seasons with Dodgers (2013 – 2018) and Reds and Indians in 2019.
Puig made an impressive rookie debut with a .319 average, 122 hits and 19 home runs in just a span of 104 games while drawing 6 intentional balls. His Fielding percentage and outfield assists were consistent and above-average throughout his career as he made 28 errors and 57 assists in 826 games playing the outfield.
His areas to improve are known to be strike-out (K%) and walk (BB%) ratios as his K% being 20% and his BB% being 8.7%. Based on FanGraphs chart, they are average.
This is an estimate and league-average strikeout and walk rates vary on a year-by-year basis.
But considering the fact that he is likely to face a couple of hurdles in Korea — breaking balls and cultural barrier — to overcome as a foreign player with a history of unprofessional behaviours and allegations in both field and off the field, his priority is adjusting to Korean culture and getting to know players for an effective communication which can lead to a good performance.
Maintaining a good relationship with Korean teammates shouldn’t be hard for Puig as how he got long with Hyun-Jin Ryu during his time with Dodgers. Many are predicting that he will hit as many home runs Eric Thames, who averaged 40 home runs per season for NC Dinos of the KBO in a hitter-friendly league. Even if he ends up belting between 25 to 30 home runs in his first season with a subpar .260 average, resigning with a big league team is highly possible as his goal is to make a comeback to MLB. Apparently, there were a few teams that were interested in signing Puig this off-season, but the 2021 lockout — prolonging the process and cancelling the winter meeting — has likely made Puig decide to play in Korea.
Speaking of the team Kiwoom, they are notorious for having players with unethical behaviours and criminal records. I won’t go too deep into it but to name the list of misconducts caused by Kioom players, it starts with match-fixing, driving under influence, sexual assault/harassment, vandalism, bribing umpires, and bullying younger players (age ranking is common in Asia). So as someone who managed to avoid being charged for speeding and fighting with a bouncer at the bar, it is ironic for Kiwoom to sign Puig as if they are destined to sign players with scandals.
I am excited to see Puig’s journey in Korea as I also expect him to be as good as all the former KBO players who successfully returned to the big league or got an offer to stay next season because they were good fits. Hopefully, his first season goes smoothly without having any conflicts with players, staff, and umpires.