Friedman talks Puig's upside, LA's offseason
LOS ANGELES -- With the offseason beginning to wind down, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman addressed some of the question marks surrounding his club on Wednesday at a news conference with free-agent signees Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner.
Friedman said the Dodgers still don't know what to expect from outfielder Yasiel Puig, who is entering his fifth Spring Training with the organization.
"No, no. I think the upside is significant, and I think there's a lot more awareness of kind of what's expected," Friedman said at Dodger Stadium. "I definitely see some real maturation. In terms of how that translates on the field and success remains to be seen. But he's capable of so much, and I know his teammates want to see him achieve that, we want to see him achieve that, and we'll do everything we can to put him in a position to do that."
The Dodgers would like to see Puig continue to hone some of the adjustments he made in the batter's box when he was demoted to Triple-A last August.
"You look at a guy that can dance like he can, and he doesn't have that same rhythm in the batter's box," Friedman said. "You look at kind of what's happened year over year over year, and there have been changes, and it becomes muscle memory and it's a hard thing to untangle. We had some things that we wanted him to work on when he went down to Oklahoma City, and he started making progress on that. It's hard in-season."
Puig was hitting .260 when he was sent to the Minors for a month. When he returned to the Majors in September, he hit .281 over his final 23 games.
"What we saw in September was just kind of scratching the surface of that, because he didn't have that much time in August to work on it," Friedman said. "He's been getting after it this winter, so we'll see when we get to Spring Training how those changes have kind of taken hold."
Friedman said outfielder Trayce Thompson, rehabbing multiple fractures in his back, may not be ready for the start of Spring Training next month. Thompson is yet to swing a bat, Friedman said.
"The back has kind of slowly progressed," Friedman said. "He's now getting in to more activities and is working toward being more aggressive with baseball activities. We expect him, at some point in Spring Training, to be kind of full go. We've deliberately kind of taken some time before the New Year to focus much more so on the strengthening aspect. He spent a lot of time here this winter, and now as we ramp up, our hope is that there aren't any setbacks. He's done everything he can to put himself in a position for that not to happen."
While Friedman continues to explore an upgrade at second base and a right-handed power bat to combat the Dodgers' struggles against left-handed pitching -- L.A. has presented an offer to the Twins for All-Star second baseman James Dozier -- Friedman believes his club will see an uptick in production against left-handed pitching in 2017 regardless of whether a move is made.
Friedman pointed to the return of a healthy Scott Van Slyke and better years from Enrique Hernandez and Turner. The Dodgers were last in the Majors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS against left-handed pitching in 2016.
"So that's just to name a few," Friedman said. "But you kind of go around, and it was kind of like the imperfect storm that played out last year, and we feel like even as is, we're not going to be near where we were last year. It's not a strength, per se, but we have a lot of other team strengths, and if that's an area that's not as strong as others, so it goes."
With the World Baseball Classic set for March, Friedman said it's too soon to know if any Dodgers pitcher will participate. Jansen is a possibility to pitch for The Kingdom of the Netherlands, and Team USA could be a possibility for Clayton Kershaw. The Championship round will be played at Dodger Stadium from March 20-22.
"It just depends so much on the pitcher and what's going on from a health standpoint, a training standpoint," Friedman said. "I am a big advocate of the WBC, and I do think it's a really competitive environment that's good for a lot of players, but so much of it comes down to each individual and what's going on with them at that time."