Yasiel Puig is a New Favorite


They said he wasn’t ready. Yasiel Puig, the Cuban phenomenon, has burst on to the scene in an exciting way rarely made by rookies. I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely this excited about a rookie. Perhaps the last Dodger rookie which really made a big splash was back in 1994 with Raul Mondesi. Mondesi, a favorite Dodger of mine, was certainly akin to Yasiel Puig in many ways. The right fielder also was considered a five-tool player, and like Puig was a slugger. Mondesi hit 16 homeruns in his rookie season. So far Puig already has four.

Not many rookies are successful from the get-go in their Major League careers. Many take time to learn the league’s pitchers and

Yasiel Puig has exploded on to the scene for the Dodger sin 2013. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

adjust to big league pitching. Yasiel Puig has been able to begin his young career by hitting .486/.514/.886 with 4 homeruns, 10 RBIs, 2 doubles, 6 runs, 6 strikeouts and one walk in his first ten games. Puig also has 2 assists in the outfield. The only stat which has yet to be tapped is for stolen bases. Puig has yet to have much of a chance to steal just yet, but Davey Lopes is working with him in order to learn about the league’s pitchers and their moves.

In a week and a half, Yasiel Puig has already hit his first grand slam, had multiple multi-hit games, made amazing throws from the outfield with his strong and accurate arm, rallied the team, and even fought in his first brawl. Yasiel is here to stay. His talent should never be wasted in the minor leagues again. His rare talent should be showcased on the biggest platform which is the Major Leagues. The Dodgers had to start him off in the minors in order to control his contract status for longer. While most fans were clamoring for Puig earlier this year, the front office smartly held back from bringing him up in order to insure Los Angeles will be able to watch this future superstar for a long time.

Seven years and $42 million seemed like a steep sum for a prospect which most in the organization had never seen play live and not on video. Questions about Puig’s maturity also rattled around after he was arrested for reckless driving and driving without proof of insurance back in April while playing for the Chattanooga Lookouts. This was while he was on the 7-day disabled list with a sprained right thumb. After 40 games in AA, Puig was batting .313 with 8 homeruns and 37 RBIs. He also stole 13 bases. Once Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford suffered hamstring injuries, the Dodgers decided that the time had come to bring Puig up whether he was ready or not.

The 22-year old plays with a fervor which is exciting to watch as a fan. After such as disappointing 2013 season so far, the emergence of Yasiel Puig has almost made each game this season a must-see when Puig is playing. The Dodgers have been in last place for awhile now. The Dodgers have set what seems like records for disability stints to many of their starting players. Watching Puig’s youth really makes you realize the importance of the farm system including player development and scouting. Big free agent signings are very risky, and many of the players which have garnered such spendy contracts haven’t produced at a level expected of them. Puig’s price tag wasn’t cheap, but he has a far higher ceiling than players like Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford who are not getting any younger.

Stacie’s Mondesi Autograph

Andre Ethier is still my favorite current Dodger (one who is still playing), and even though he hasn’t been playing like the old Andre of late I’m not giving up on him. With Kemp and Crawford in hamstring hell, Ethier’s presence in the outfield is needed while rookies fill out the remainder of the outfield during this time. When Ethier is hitting in the clutch and stringing together  a 30-game hitting streak, he is one of the most exciting players to watch. Ethier is a player who feeds on team momentum. His frustration can get in his way sometimes, and we have seen his struggles on his face this season. Don Mattingly has been less then supportive with Dre, and along with the turnover in the lineup, it’s no wonder why Andre isn’t thriving in this tumultuous environment. I still feel there is a place for Ethier on this team. You may disagree, and many feel his contract should have never been penned. I cannot forget the contributions he has made to this team since his debut with the Dodgers, and I will continue to root for Dre as well as Kemp even during their slumps.

Yasiel Puig will eventually slump. It’s inevitable. Every good player slumps. It’s those who can break out of the slump and be able to do that consistently that will have a long successful career. We are lucky to be able to watch the beginning of Puig’s career as a Dodger. The Cuban defector left his family and country to pursue his dream of playing baseball in the Major League. The Dodgers discovered his birth-given talents, and the talented scouts could see that this young man has the potential to be a superstar.

He still has a lot to learn, but he will only get better. Other teams have already taken notice, and Puig’s arm already has a reputation. He’s even already been walked intentionally. The sky’s the limit for the outfielder, and the Dodgers will have to reconfigure the outfield in order to play him every day. I don’t see why he can’t play center field. With Matt Kemp’s unknown return, Puig should get some time in center along with Ethier.

It was a scary moment when Ian Kennedy plunked Yasiel Puig in the nose with a pitch in Tuesday’s brawl-filled battle. Whether Ian Kennedy intentionally hit Puig or not, the league is sure jealous of our top prospect. Puig was ensnarled in the mayhem during the brawl, and he may have injured his shoulder during the melee. He sat out Wednesday’s series finale game due to a sore shoulder, but he hit a single as a pinch-hitter in one at-bat. It scared the heck out of me to see Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig in the middle of that swirling fight!

Most rookies don’t come attached with so much hype. Bryce Harper‘s MLB debut last season at Dodger Stadium was pretty huge,

Yasiel Puig won the National League Player of the Week after his first week in the MLB. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

but Puig’s debut was a lot more intriguing since he is a Dodger. Watching Raul Mondesi when I was younger brought excitement to the game with his style of play, and Yasiel Puig’s all-out effort is reflected in his immediate success on the diamond. As long as he stays true to the game and isn’t tempted by the downfalls of the Hollywood life, Puig could be a future All-Star. Heck, I’m writing in his name on the voting ballot as I speak.

The true stars only come around once or twice in a generation. Clayton Kershaw is our generation’s Sandy Koufax, can Yasiel Puig be the biggest hitter for the Dodgers of our time? Puig is the real deal. His homeruns are towering and his arm is a missile. As long as he stays healthy and grounded, Puig has the skill set to succeed in this game. He may not sustain the huge numbers he’s throwing out right now, but with continued coaching and maturity, Puig could be a franchise player for the Dodgers.

Puig equals hope. During this disaster of a season, there has been a few bright spots including the dominance of the other international signing by the Dodgers, Hyun-jin Ryu. Even though this season likely will not result in a World Series berth, the Dodgers did one thing very well. The international scouts should be applauded for the signings of Puig and Ryu. Puig’s arrival has given the fans something to root for, and so far he has far surpassed any expectations I might have had. Number 66 is on route to a fantastic Dodger career.