Puig Power: Yasiel Puig Is Taking The League By Storm
When a ballplayer transcends the game in their first few games, there’s usually a tendency to become overwhelmed by their potential. Young phenoms who play in major media markets, are almost always met with unrealistic expectations, but in certain rare cases, they’re able to meet and even exceed those expectations. When you talk about Yasiel Puig, the Cuban defector who has revived a horrific Dodgers team with his incredible performances in just five big league games, it’s easy to compare his talent-level with that of super prospects Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. The question is, will he continue this torrid pace, or is he drawing some Troutlandish comparisons?
First of all, the man who ignited MVP debates between old-school reporters and sabremetrics advocates last season did not make an immediate impact at the big league level. People forget that Trout struggled after being called up 2011. He hit .163 in 34 at bats in July of that year, and finished the season with a .220 batting average. When he got the call on April 28th, 2012, Trout went 4-17 (.235) in his first five games in 2012, and the Angels won three of those contests.
Puig hasn’t struggled at any point in his professional baseball career. The 6-foot-3-inch, 245-pound outfielder is blessed with a rare combination of speed and power. He’s so physically talented and imposing that his manger, Don Mattingly, even compared the young prospect to the great Bo Jackson during spring training. This came while Puig hit .516 in spring training, while Jackson only managed to put up a line of .207/.329/.615 throughout his rookie year. But the comparison was not necessarily about his production, just his potential, and we saw that potential when he clinched his very first major league game with this ridiculous throw from the warning track to double up Chris Denorfia.
The biggest knock on Puig is that he’s too talented, too confident, and therefore, too impatient. During spring training, a major league scout wrote this about the 22-year-old:
“Puig is anxious at the plate and wants to swing at everything. You typically see this profile in the lower minors but with proper development, batters learn to be more patient and look for balls in their zone that they can drive. If given the time, Puig should be able to develop this skill. Additionally, his routes to flyballs were not good. As with his at-bats, he was able to compensate with his athleticism to make all plays, but he clearly requires development in his fielding.”
While the lack of walks (15 in 147 minor league ABs this year) is somewhat troubling, it may be offset by his ability to attack any pitch in the strike zone. In his first four games, covering 49 pitches, Puig allowed only five strikes to pass by him without him swinging. That means he only saw 3.06 pitcher per at-bat, but it also means that anything that was thrown in the strike zone he hit, hard.
Does this indicate that Puig, who is three years older than Trout was in 2012, is less professional than last year’s rookie of the year? Is he less polished, too headstrong? Will major league pitchers be able to take advantage of his aggressiveness over a larger sample size?