If you don’t know who Yasiel Puig is, you’re probably not a baseball fan, and are therefore probably not reading this article.
Just in case, I'll let you know that Yasiel Puig is a 22-year-old phenom for the Los Angeles Dodgers who came over from Cuba back in 2012. The Dodgers signed him to a seven-year, $42 million contract.
Before even playing in a minor league game, the Cuban defector was receiving comparisons to Bo Jackson and Roberto Clemente.
The Dodgers called up Puig from AA-Chattanooga on June 3, and to say he has taken the league by storm would be the understatement of the century. In 34 games since his call-up, Puig has hit eight home runs, stolen five bases, scored 26 runs and knocked in 19 others. He also has 55 hits- good enough for a whopping .407 batting average.
But the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story.
He has been an excellent right fielder, making big plays with his glove and with the cannon that he calls his ‘right arm’. He has come up with clutch hits in big moments, including a game-tying, sixth inning home run that allowed the Dodgers to win in extra innings on June 7. This came just three days after his two-home run, five-RBI performance led the Dodgers to a 9-7 win over the Padres. In his second career game.
But even that doesn’t do it justice.
Yasiel Puig is not like most major league baseball players.
He can throw, he can field, he can run, he can hit and he can hit for power. Yes, there are other five-tool players. But Yasiel Puig is not a five-tool player.
Yasiel Puig has a sixth tool. I'm not quite sure what it's called, but it's there.
He has that dramatic flair, the ability to get his teammates going, the tendency to turn heads.
He's electrifying. He loves the game.
He is a little kid trapped in a 6’3", 245-lb, grown man’s body.
He hustles on every single play, no matter the circumstance, more than anybody I’ve watched in years.
Now this is not to say that all major leaguers don’t hustle and give it their all 99% of the time, because they do. Many probably do so 100% of the time. But Puig is on another level.
Here’s a hypothetical situation: A player is at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, his team down by two runs. The bases are empty. He hits a lazy pop-up in between the shortstop and the left fielder. Not a routine play, but one that will be made nine times out of ten, at the very least. The average player slams his bat to the ground as he jogs to first base, infuriated with his inability to keep the game going.
On the off chance the ball drops in for a base hit, Puig would already be sliding into second base by the time the fielder picks up the ball. He’d probably steal third base on the very next pitch.
That’s Yasiel Puig.
This may be a made-up scenario, but it is not an unrealistic one.
I have watched him hit a hard ground ball to left field and safely slide into second. On what is typically a single, Puig rounds first and heads for the next base without any hesitation.
Puig is the same way in the field.
In the third inning of the June 23 contest between the Dodgers and the Padres, Puig ran full speed towards center field and made a diving catch, nearly colliding with teammate Andre Ethier.
Four days later, while playing the Phillies, Puig tracked down a fly ball off the bat of Chase Utley and ran straight into the right field wall as the ball flew over the fence for a home run.
Puig bounced back up as if nothing had happened.
After the game, Dodgers manager assured fans that they had "checked the wall and it's OK." He seemed to only be half-joking.
Yasiel Puig knows one speed: full speed.
It may eventually get him hurt, but no manager is going to complain about Puig's all-out mentality and style of play.
His combination of size, strength, speed and athleticism is on a level that is unparalleled in baseball- and one only LeBron James can relate to.
When you combine all of this with his unending talent and baseball instincts, Puig becomes baseball’s most exciting player.
In a league where Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado and Giancarlo Stanton are all very much on the rise, Puig is the most fascinating and head-turning young player- after one month.
Puig was not originally voted into the all-star game, but he is on the ballot for the final roster spot, voted on by the fans. He is going up against Hunter Pence, Freddie Freeman, Ian Desmond and teammate Adrian Gonzalez.
If he gets voted in, it will not be done without controversy. Puig’s deserved ness of being an all-star is already a highly-debated issue.
The argument for Puig being an all-star is simple: his numbers, his contributions to the Dodgers and the excitement he brings to the sport deem him worthy.
To say he doesn’t deserve it, while valid, is slightly more difficult to explain. The most common argument made against Puig is that he doesn’t have enough at-bats or games played to qualify.
I'd like to see where in the rule book it states a minimum number of games played to qualify for the all-star game.
The all-star game is meant for the players who have been the top performers so far during the season. Since his call-up, Puig has been one of the best players in all of baseball. He has been one of the top performers.
The game is meant to honor, put a spotlight on and showcase the skills of those who have performed at a higher standard than the other players.
To argue that Puig hasn't done so, even if it's only for a little over a month, is simply wrong.
Since Puig's arrival, here's how his numbers compare to the top six all-star vote-getters:
Yasiel Puig- 55 hits, 8 hr's
Miguel Cabrera- 43 hits, 12 hr's
Chris Davis- 31 hits, 13 hr's
Yadier Molina- 38 hits, 3 hr's
Adam Jones- 34 hits, 5 hr's
Carlos Beltran- 39 hits, 7 hr's
Mike Trout- 44 hits, 5 hr's
In fact, his 55 hits lead the major leagues over the time span during which he has been up.
Sure, deserving players are often left out while less-deserving ones make it, but for the most part, the best players play in the all-star game.
And that doesn't mean those players who are snubbed aren't meant to be there.
So yes, I do think Yasiel Puig deserves to be on the National League all-star team this year. I think he has already earned it.
Puig may get voted in by the fans on Thursday, he may not.
But it doesn't matter. He doesn’t need an all-star game appearance for us to remember his rookie season. Or any part of his career, really.
He just needs to keep up the intensity and the excitement.
He just needs to keep being Yasiel.