Last year, Los Angeles was graced with a rookie phenom the likes of which the MLB world had not seen in over a decade with Mike Trout. Tonight marks the beginning of what could possibly become another showcasing of a young talent who takes the baseball world by storm.
Yasiel Puig is a Cuban defector who signed a seven-year contract worth $42 million almost a year ago today. He was immediately placed on the Dodgers' 40-man roster and assigned to play in the Arizona Rookie League where he hit .400 with four home-runs in nine games. He was promptly promoted to Class A-Advanced and continued to hit sporting a .327 average in 14 games.
Spring training 2013 is when he made a massive splash, though. His gaudy spring training numbers were so good, he actually managed to make people think that spring training numbers mattered. His .526 batting average in the Cactus League sparked comparison to Bo Jackson among baseball scouts and critics. The rare combination of speed, power and overall hitting ability had many people claiming (and hoards of Los Angeles fans clamoring) he could make the Major League ballclub out of spring training with less than a year of experience. But with the Dodgers' crowded outfield (Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier) Puig was optioned to Double-A.
While with the Chattanooga Lookous over the past few months, Puig hit .313 with eight home-runs and 37 RBI in 40 games. Now, with injuries to both Kemp and Crawford, and Ethier falling out of a favor with manager Don Mattingly, the disappointing Dodgers are desperate for a spark-plug to turn their season around. In steps Yasiel Puig.
He was only ranked 92 in MLB.com's top 100 prospects list going into this season, where Mike Trout was number one in 2012, but he is still garnering huge amounts of hype with his debut on-deck for tonight. While he is being heralded as the next Bo Jackson, the Oakland A's have a Cuban defector outfielder of their own whom Puig may wind up being similar to. In his first year in Oakland, Yoenis Cespedes batted .292 with 23 home-runs and 25 doubles while playing all three outfield positions, not to mention 16 stolen bases. Obviously, because Puig is in Los Angeles, the fanfare surrounding him will be far more prominent should he put up similar numbers to Cespedes.
I am extremely excited to watch Puig play in the MLB. From what I saw in spring training, he has all the skills to be a superstar in this league, and a very special one. He is one of those players whom a baseball fan should root for, strictly for the entertainment value. Remember how fun last summer was with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper? It is just as likely Puig comes up and puts up mediocre numbers, or even struggles mightily, and will be sent back down to the minors once Kemp and Crawford return. With so little experience, it is not like Puig would receive much of any harsh criticisms. But the hype is there for Puig, and if he lives up to his lofty expectations, the Dodgers will have no choice but to keep him in the Majors going forward.
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