In 2009, Adam Dunn hit 38 home runs, drove in 105, had an OPS+ of 144. In 2010, he had 38, 103 and 138. And then in 2011, those numbers fell off. He hit 11 home runs, drove in 42 runs and had an OPS+ of only 54. At 31, the slugger looked done.
And then 2012. Dunn remembered himself, jumping right back to 41 homers, 96 RBI, a 114 OPS+. A year after being finished, Dunn was an all-star.
In 1953, Roy Campanella put up a 154 OPS+, capping a first six years that included a 137 mark and two MVP trophies. A year later, he managed only a .207 batting average, with his OPS+ falling to 74. But 1955? A 152 OPS+, another 32 home runs, and of yeah, a third MVP trophy.
In his first season, in 104 games, Yasiel Puig hit .319/.391/.534. That was good for a 159 OPS+ and a second-place Rookie of the Year finish that would be first in the majority of seasons. He slipped just a little in his second season, as all three slash-line numbers fell. Still, his OPS+ was 145, and that's crazy good.
But last year, Puig forgot how it all worked. He played in only 79 games, partly due to injury, partly due to poor production. He bottomed out in all his slash numbers. In the end, he was still an above-average offensive player overall (109 OPS+), but for a right fielder, he was far from special.
I'm not saying Yasiel Puig is Adam Dunn offensively. I'm certainly not saying he's Roy Campanella. I include those two at the top merely to show that guys don't just vanish. Skillsets don't disappear. Guys who have a track record of success see that track record fade for generally two reasons: injury and age. Dunn had two more decent seasons after his resurgence before the retirement bell rang. Injury and age combined to make that 1955 Campanella's last big year.
There are other guys who saw their numbers plummet and not rebound. But those guys tend to be the one-year wonders, the Joe Charboneau types who were above their head for a season. Puig has the scouting report, the pedigree, the track record that we shouldn't expect a continuation of his 2015 struggles.
At least, he should. As I noted in my Jung-ho Kang writeup a week ago, we're entering new territory in player evaluation with some of our imports. Puig, the Cuban import, didn't have the normal growth of a minor-leaguer, and hasn't had a career typical of a new major-leaguer. Puig had a reputation as a bad body guy with perhaps not enough motivation to stay in top form when he came up; while he hasn't had nearly the run-ins that his bummer of a big-league rep has indicated, there's a reason the bad words have been floated. Puig's made $17 million already and has another $24 million guaranteed; a guy who lacks motivation certainly could kick back on that.
Still, we have two seasons of near-superstar Puig, followed by a letdown year that was held up by injury. He should be healthy heading into 2016. Don Mattingly was apparently very anti-Puig, and he's gone. The Carl Crawford experiment isn't a real threat to displace him; neither is Scott Van Slyke. Assuming health, Puig will get a full chance to regain his prowess in 2016.
I think he'll do it. To the tune of putting $23 on Puig in my NL-only auction last week. The theoretical 20-20 candidate of a couple years ago probably isn't any sort of reality anymore. But 20-plus home runs with a .280 average and double-digit steals? I don't even think that's a significant stretch.
It's no guarantee. Puig could find himself benched by June. But I think he;s worth the risk.