Up Close and Personal: Yasiel Puig

After taking two of three from the Padres, the Phillies travel from San Diego to Los Angeles for a four-game set with the Dodgers to finish off their West coast road trip. The Dodgers, much like the Phillies, have been an expensive disappointment. Last year, they took on $250 million in salary from the Red Sox, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett in what was arguably the biggest trade in baseball history. Manager Don Mattingly, like Charlie Manuel has in the past, has stubbornly refused to use his best reliever (Kenley Jansen) in the most crucial situations, favoring a less-effective veteran (Brandon League).

Perhaps the most interesting storyline to come out of Los Angeles this year, however, has been Yasiel Puig. A Cuban defector, he signed with the Dodgers last year on a seven-year, $42 million contract. Between rookie ball in the Arizona League and a handful of at-bats with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Puig flashed star potential at every turn. The Dodgers moved the 22-year-old to Double-A Chattanooga to start the 2013 season and the outfielder caught on fire immediately. Between the start of the season and the end of May, Puig posted a .982 OPS which included a .313 average, eight home runs, and 13 stolen bases in 167 plate appearances. The Dodgers, struggling mightily at the time due in large part to an avalanche of injuries, promoted Puig and put him in the starting lineup on June 3.

Puig singled in his first Major League at-bat, against Padres lefty Eric Stults. In his second Major League game, Puig hit two home runs and drove in five runs. In his 22 total games at the Major League level, Puig has had a hit in 18 of them and multiple hits in 13. He has seven home runs in 90 plate appearances (on pace for 50 over 650 PA), and only two of them have been pulled. His triple-slash line is .435/.467/.729.

I plugged that into Baseball Reference’s Play Index to find out which rookies have posted such a season. Of course, none went .400/.400/.700, so I lowered the threshold and only got this:

Player Year BA OBP SLG PA Age Tm
Yasiel Puig 2013 .435 .467 .729 90 22 LAD
Chris Dickerson 2008 .304 .413 .608 122 26 CIN
Albert Pujols (RoY-1st) 2001 .329 .403 .610 676 21 STL
Willie McCovey (RoY-1st) 1959 .354 .429 .656 219 21 SFG
Ted Williams 1939 .327 .436 .609 675 20 BOS
George Watkins 1930 .373 .415 .621 424 30 STL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/27/2013.

Will Puig hit .400/.400/.700 the rest of the year? Of course not, but even if he regresses heavily over his next 300 PA, he will still be quite a valuable player to the Dodgers.

Looking across the baseball landscape, you see Aroldis Chapman thriving with the Reds, Yoenis Cespedes with the Athletics, and now Puig with the Dodgers. It makes you wonder why the Phillies aren’t terribly active in pursuing international players. If the Phillies are lucky, they’ll be able to minimize Puig’s ability to do damage over the next four games, but chances are he’ll make quick use of his talent and leave the Phillies wondering what it’d be like to have such a talent on the roster.

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14 comments

  1. Phillie697

    June 27, 2013 12:54 PM

    As the consensus between me, Richard, and joecatz seems to be the last time you talked about this topic, BB, which is like what, last week, is that we should blame the janitor.

  2. #PhilliesTalk

    June 27, 2013 12:59 PM

    Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

    Why is it that I’m not seeing the Phillies linked to this Cuban pitcher?

    Why am I seeing trade rumors for Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon so the Phillies can “get some prospects”?

    Why can’t the huge market Phillies get their prospects the way the small market Cincinnati Reds got Chapman?

    Where is John S. Middleton and more importantly where is his checkbook?

  3. bubba0101

    June 27, 2013 02:02 PM

    Agreed! There will certainly be more Cuban ballplayers coming over the next few years and it should be a priority to not miss that boat…

  4. Phillie697

    June 27, 2013 02:20 PM

    @Richard,

    At least you got the reference :)

  5. JM

    June 27, 2013 03:31 PM

    we got Chooch from the international scene…and Franco…and some German kid

  6. Pencilfish

    June 27, 2013 04:45 PM

    Puig’s AA stats in 2013 (age 22):

    .313/.383/.599, 12 doubles, 3 triples, 8 HR’s, 15 BB and 29 SO’s over 167 PA’s

    Franco’s AA stats in 2013 (age 20):

    .483/.500/.897, 1 double, 1 triple, 3 HR’s, 1 BB and 0 SO’s over 30 PA’s

    Franco can get 137 PA’s to catch up with Puig by end of July or early August, so we should find out near the trade deadline how Franco compares to Puig in a tiny sample size. If Franco performs at comparable levels while being 20 months younger…

  7. Smitty

    June 27, 2013 05:05 PM

    Bill Baer mentioned international players who all hail from Cuba. I would imagine the Phillies could have had any of them but were reluctant to spend the 20 to 50 million these players cost to acquire. When the Dodgers hand out a cool 80 to $100 million to the Cuban pitcher Gonzalez (for 3 or 4 yrs) we will still wonder why the Phillies, or even the Marlins didn’t pay up ? I don’t understand where teams like Bosox can pay something like $100 mill for an untried Japanese pitcher who blows up after 2 years ?
    Have at it…

  8. #PhilliesTalk

    June 27, 2013 07:43 PM

    “I don’t understand where teams like Bosox can pay something like $100 mill for an untried Japanese pitcher who blows up after 2 years ?”

    You meant the Rangers with Yu Darvish?

    He certainly blows up MLB hitters.

    Where was John S. Middleton and his checkbook then?

  9. bubba0101

    June 28, 2013 08:55 AM

    He meant Dice K

  10. Phillie697

    June 28, 2013 10:08 AM

    Difference between Puig and Franco: Puig is doing his thing in the majors already. That is not to say Franco won’t be able to, but there is a difference between potential and actual performance. What did Eric say? “Not everyone can be Buster Posey.”

    @Smitty,

    That’s the job you signed up for when you decide you want to be a MLB GM. You take calculated risks. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but those who do nothing, well, inevitably fail.

  11. BobSmith77

    June 29, 2013 04:29 PM

    How do you know if Amaro even has permission from the front office to venture into international markets and spend that kind of money?

    I don’t remotely understand either why any fan thinks someone like Middleton is going to open his own pocket to fund anything related to the team. Middleton is looking for yield and when this current ownership group sells (and I think they will sometime right before or after the new TV deal is inked with Comcast or Fox) Middleton is looking to maximize his return if he cashes out or if he buys out his partners to take a controlling interest how much he can expect annually in annual cash flow and what some of his longer-term returns might be with a sale down the road.

  12. #PhilliesTalk

    June 29, 2013 08:30 PM

    “How do you know if Amaro even has permission from the front office to venture into international markets and spend that kind of money?”

    I don’t know who you addressed this to, but I’ll answer it.

    I don’t believe Amaro has any authority whatsoever to sign a Yasiel Puig or the now available Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. In fact I believe Amaro is forbidden to top bid for any of these Cubans. To my knowledge – the best Google can produce – there is zero evidence that the Phillies have ever seriously bid for any Cuban or Japanese player.

    The man behind this restriction is David Montgomery who was potty trained by Bill Giles after Montgomery graduated from the Wharton Business School.

    Scott Boras clients are also forbidden. The Phillies are in a Thirty Years War with Scott Boras that began 16 years ago with the purposeful drafting of Boras client J.D. Drew for the express purpose of preventing another team from paying Drew and Boras. The Phillies forfeited the 2nd overall pick of the draft to do this.

    That is “commitment”. Not the kind that Scott Rolen – or myself – want to see, but the Phillies certainly are committed to something there.

    John S. Middleton, the Buck family and Claire Betz will not be selling anytime soon since they signed a lease of sorts to get the big taxpayer dollars for that ballpark, which prohibits the Phillies ownership group from doing so for a long time unless they want to pay a huge penalty.

    MLB revenues have skyrocketed. While salaries have gone up about two fold in ten years, MLB revenues have gone up at least eight times.

    The Phillies franchise is now valued in the billions where before the sale of the Dodgers their value was under a billion. There is no reason not to believe that there will not be another significant jump in value in the next five years and another in the following five years.

    Selling is the last thing on their minds.

  13. Phillie697

    July 01, 2013 03:42 AM

    @BobSmith77,

    How about RAJ had just taken the money he spent on Ryan Howard and Papelpon and spent it on Puig, Cespedes, and/or Soler? Last time I checked, money is money. Nobody even needs to “open up the checkbook.” Would be nice if he just spent the existing checkbook wisely.

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