It has been one month since Yasiel Puig made his major league debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the rookie hasn’t wasted any time putting his name in the record books.
Puig has just 106 major league at-bats under his belt, but they are arguably the most productive at-bats to begin a career in the history of Major League Baseball.
The Cuban defector is hitting a scorching .443 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs through 27 games, and the numbers don’t stop there. In Puig’s 26 games played during the month of June, the 22-year-old led the majors in batting average (.436) and slugging percentage (.713). He was also atop the National League with a .467 on-base percentage, and his 44 base hits were the second-most ever by a first-month player behind Joe DiMaggio‘s 48 in 1936.
The numbers are astounding, but the offensive prowess isn’t the only impressive facet to the outfielder’s game. He’s proven that he can make spectacular plays in the field as well, sporting an arm comparable to Vladimir Guerrero and a glove like Torii Hunter. Whether it be game-ending double plays or reckless diving catches, the five-tool superstar seems to be doing it all for a Dodgers team that was desperate for a revival.
And that might be the most important aspect of Puig’s presence with the big-league club. He has jump-started a team that was drastically underperforming after spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the offseason in preparation for a deep postseason run. The Dodgers — when healthy — can be considered to have one of the most dangerous lineups in the league, with names like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. However, between horrible starts from Kemp and Ethier, along with Ramirez and Crawford spending time on the disabled list, the Dodgers were National League West bottom-dwellers for most of the first half of the season.
When Puig was called up on June 3, the Dodgers were sitting 7 1/2 games out of first place with a record of 24-32. Fast-forward one month, and the Boys in Blue are 39-43, only 2 1/2 games out of first place after winning nine out of their last 10 games. Even though Puig’s presence may not produce a quantifiable statistic on how he’s making his team better, it is obvious that his play has helped improve the team’s energy and chemistry.
“We’re pretty much feeding off the kid,” said Kemp last week in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “He kind of plays too hard, sometimes you’ve got to tell him ‘calm down, you can’t make every play,’ but you can’t really change his game.”
All-Star voting comes to an end Thursday, and Puig will not garner enough votes be one of the outfielders initially voted in. However, he has a case to win the All-Star Final Vote, which allows fans to vote-in the final player on each league’s roster. There are some who believe that he should not even be up for consideration since he’s only had one month of major league service. However, his one month has been more productive than many other outfielders’ entire seasons thus far.
There were 11 outfielders on the 2012 National League All-Star roster, and Ryan Braun, Angel Pagan and Shin-Soo Choo are currently eighth, ninth and tenth, respectively, among NL outfielders in 2013 voting. Braun is hitting .304 with nine homers and 36 RBIs. His numbers are respectable and worthy of All-Star consideration, but Pagan’s .262/3 HR/24 RBIs stat line along with Choo’s .267/12 HR/26 RBIs totals are far less impressive. Pagan has 49 hits on the season; Puig had 44 hits in less than a month.
Puig is the most riveting player in the sport right now and deserves the fans’ final vote. He was named both the National League Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month for June, but adding National League All-Star to that list of accolades would be a promising start to what seems like an infinitely bright future.