바카라사이트 Correspondent Lee Sang-hee] Yasiel Puig (33), the “bad boy” who played for the Kiwoom Heroes, is making a comeback to the Major League Baseball (ML).
Sports Illustrated (SI) recently reported that Puig is returning to baseball. His first stop is not the major leagues, but the Dominican Republic Winter League.
“Puig will play for Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Republic’s Winter League this winter, a league that has been played by San Diego outfielder Fernando Tatis Jr. (25) and Houston shortstop Jeremy Peña (26), and is of such a high calibre that major league prospects consistently attend each year,” the media outlet said.
Among the South Koreans, Choi Ji-Man (32, San Diego) played in the league with the Estrellas after the regular season ended in the U.S. in 2015 when he was a minor leaguer and injuries limited his playing time. The Winter League attracts a lot of minor league prospects, as well as players looking to rebound, like Puig.
Puig hitting for the Los Angeles Dodgers. /AFPBBNews=News1
Puig made his major league debut with the Dodgers in June 2013 after fleeing Cuba and was a sensation from the start. He became just the second player in franchise history to hit four home runs in his first five games in the big leagues and tied a franchise record with 10 RBIs in the same span. He also became the first player in major league history to pound out 34 hits and seven home runs in his first 20 games, making him one of the most sought-after players in the league. He was often spotted joking around with then-teammate Hyun-jin Ryu, 36, of Toronto, and the two were dubbed “best friends.
In his first year in the big leagues, Puig batted .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs in 104 games. His on-base percentage and slugging percentage combined for a .925 OPS. Establishing himself as the Dodgers’ starting outfielder, Puig has hit double-digit home runs every year since, making him a star beyond the team and into the league. But as his major league career progressed, he began to make headlines for character issues, including being late to practice and feuding with teammates.
Ryu Hyun-jin (right) plays a prank on Dodgers teammate Puig in 2014.
The Dodgers eventually traded Puig to Cincinnati after the 2018 season because of his volatile personality. Even then, Puig’s problems were not easily fixed. He was often seen bench-clearing with opposing players. This led to a three-game suspension. There were also reports of him being disrespectful in practice.
Traded to Cleveland at the end of July 2019, Puig finished the season with a .267 batting average, 24 home runs, 84 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases in 149 games. But no team wanted him anymore. The team decided that despite his baseball skills, he would do more harm than good given the team’s atmosphere.
Puig went on to play in the Dominican Winter League, and last year he played in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) with the Kiwoom Heroes. In 126 games, he batted .277 (131-for-473) with 21 home runs and 73 RBIs, helping his team to a runner-up finish.
He was expected to re-sign with the team after the season, but Puig’s involvement in illegal sports betting charges in the United States in 2019 led to Kiwoom opting out. He has since spent this year unemployed. His major league career numbers are .277 (3015-for-834) with 132 home runs and 415 RBIs in 861 games.
Puig batting last year with Kiwoom.
Puig (centre) during his time with Kiwoom.
Puig agreed to a guilty plea with prosecutors in July last year, but abruptly changed his mind in November and maintained his innocence. His defence maintains that Puig is innocent and that the guilty plea was the result of a coercive investigation. After Puig refused to plead guilty, prosecutors charged him with making false statements. A related trial will take place in January next year.
Puig is reportedly looking to make a splash in the Dominican Winter League, which begins in October, and then build on that to return to the major leagues or Asia. To do so, he must first clear his name of illegal gambling and misrepresentation charges. It will be interesting to see what his next move will be.