The Hollywood worthy script of the young career of Yasiel Puig is being written with every swing of the bat so far through his first 13 games as a Major Leaguer. The next chapter in this seemingly legendary tale will be written amongst the most hallowed of baseball cathedrals, Yankee Stadium.
Puig burst onto the scene with his promotion with four homers in first five games. He had his first multi-homer game in just his second game in the Majors. He launched a grand slam in his fourth game. He has eight multi-hit games already, including a 3-for-4 performance this past Sunday night against the Pirates.
He threw out a pair of runners from right field in his first week in the Majors, causing quite the stir amongst all baseball fans nationwide who could not get enough of his highlights on ESPN or around the web.
“I’ll tell you what, best throw I’ve seen in years from a right fielder,” Hawk Harrelson said during a game against the White Sox. Harrelson had just finished mentioning Roberto Clemente and Vladimir Guerrero.
Gold Glove fielding ability? Yeah, he’s got it. The arm will help him out there — see Josh Reddick for the Oakland A’s in 2012. His speed and ability to get balls that other outfielders can’t will also get him there. As he develops further as a fielder and learns to take better routes to line drives in the gap, you’ll start to see him pile up the hardware designated for the league’s best fielder at the position.
Back to his hitting, he is aggressive at the plate, not the slightest bit patient at all. In 50 plate appearances, he has walked just once — an intentional walk — and yet his batting average remains in the stratosphere at .479. Pitchers will try to exploit his aggressiveness by forcing him to chase pitches just out of the zone, and yet he has struck out just nine times so far in his career. Simply put, he puts the bat on the ball as well as even the most professional hitting veteran in the game.
He’s been playing less just two weeks! And yet, the National League Rookie of the Year award may as well already have his name chiseled onto it, perhaps his Cooperstown plaque as well. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but what legend would be complete without a little early exaggeration?
We’re talking about a player who instantly drew comparisons to Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Clemente and essentially any other MLB great that has ever shown five tool talent during their ascension into baseball immortality.As absurd as it is to talk about him in the same breath as the greats of the game, it also isn’t.
Sure, we’ve seen plenty of rookies come up and light the world on fire for the first few weeks of their careers, and then fade into absolute obscurity. The tools can fade, right?
Well, no. Not in this case. Pitchers will likely figure out his holes at some point and his average will drop, but his size, athleticism, speed and power will not change.
He’ll undoubtedly level off at some point, no one carries a batting average close to .500 through an entire season and as I just mentioned, pitchers will find some holes in his swing. He’s already gone ten games since his last home run, so perhaps it was premature to label him the second coming of Babe Ruth. A true Triple Crown candidate though? Yeah, absolutely! At 22-years old, the ceiling on this guy is extremely high.
He won’t win it this season, at least I don’t think he will, but as he develops, he certainly has the tools to accomplish what we just saw a less athletic Miguel Cabrera accomplish in 2012 (no knock on Miggy’s talent either, but you can’t compare his athletic ability to that of Puig).
Go ahead and mark it down, in permanent marker even, forget the pencil. Yasiel Puig will be a very special player for a long time. An All Star. An MVP. A once in a generation player.
He’s got prodigious power and can seemingly muscle the ball at will out of the infield or into the gap for an extra base hit. He began his career as a lead off hitter but has already been moved to the middle of the lineup, a testament to his speed, hitting ability and power. For a power hitter, he has the maturity already to utilize the whole field, a sign that his batting average will not suffer as pitchers adjust to him. A .330 batting average is a very real likelihood for him, perhaps higher.
He has just one stolen base this season, but he certainly has the speed to stick at the lead off spot if the Dodgers were to place him back into that role.
He’s a special player unlike any the Majors has seen since maybe Ken Griffey, Jr. or Barry Bonds. A pair of true five-tool players that arguably rank right up there with the other greats (Mays, Mantle, Clemente) that he has already been compared to.
The Dodgers got an absolute steal signing him for $42 million over seven years. At just 28 years old and reaching his prime just as he reaches free agency, the Dodgers have six years of ascending value with their young star. A couple of MVP awards and All Star appearances are likely within his sites and in his future while wearing Dodger blue.
Not that’s been lacking any national attention since his promotion, but that coverage is going to multiply 100-fold as he enters the media magnifying glass that is playing in the Bronx. The Dodgers open a brief two-game interleague series in New York Tuesday evening. So for two days, Puig will get a taste of playing in the biggest spotlight in professional sports.
Something just tells me that he will rise to the occasion. He certainly appears to have a flare for the dramatic.