The somewhat disenchanted L.A. Dodger fan base is notorious for arriving to games late, exiting the gates early, and exhibiting little interest in the actual contest throughout their four-inning stay. That was until 22-year-old rookie phenom, Yasiel Puig, shocked the life back into Dodger Stadium like a defibrillator. We have seen Dodger hype trains come and go in the past, left-handed pitcher Fernando Valenzuela and orthodox Hideo Nomo were fan favorites in their fledgling seasons with the ball club, but it appears that Puig has attracted nationwide attention that exceeds nearly anybody who has suited up in a uniform, igniting heated discussion over whether or not the Cuban ballplayer should be considered for this season’s All-Star Game.
Among the firm and unapologetic protestors to Puig’s potential All-Star appearance is Phillies pitcher Jonathan Papelbon, who went on record of calling the idea “a joke” and claiming that it would be unfair to veterans of the league should Puig get the nod in their place. Papelbon’s argument would be valid except for the fact that the All-Star Game winner is gifted World Series home field advantage, and so the best players of the present must be the ones to suit up. As of right now, it does not get much better than Yasiel Puig. In his first month in the Major Leagues, the Dodger has absolutely scorched the competition by batting a .436, with a .713 slugging percentage. Puig also has 7 home runs and 16 RBI’s in a mere 26 games. The outfielder’s 44 hits in June are the second highest of all time by any ball player his first month, only falling short to Joe Dimaggio’s 48 hits in 1936. In fact, Puig’s current Wins Above Replacement (a stat that measures a player’s contribution to his team) is 2.6, placing him 23rd in the National League. Seeing as how 34 ballplayers are awarded the opportunity to suit up for the National League’s All-Star squad, it would not be overly far fetched to have Puig take the field. Though it is yet to be determined if L.A.’s ace will continue to perform on this level over the course of his career, the numbers show that as of right now he is one of the most elite on the diamond.
In the month of June, Puig was awarded both the National League Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month awards, making him the first player in League history to be presented both awards in his first month. Much of this is a result of the Cuban’s raw physical ability, but one must also consider his work ethic. The Yasiel Puig machine is constantly operating at 100 percent capacity, making for some pretty intense performances as an early 20-year-old, but also drawing concerns about his health in the long term. This is something that the Dodger’s management was well aware of when they brought the young player on board, and it is something that Puig is going to have to work on in the future. If the phenom can learn the discipline of pacing himself and harnessing his natural born athletic desire to push the pedal to the floor on every play, Puig should be looking at a long career with numbers similar to this first month. If this is the case, skeptics such as Papelbon had better get used to many more years of Yasiel Puig, the MLB All-Star.