It’s not easy to see a player’s potential, but in some cases it’s obvious from the outset.
When Yasiel Puig made his major-league debut on June 3 with the Dodgers, the club was floundering and had no direction.
Some of this had to do with injuries to starting pitchers Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett, who are out the entire season, while shortstop Hanley Ramirez, center fielder Matt Kemp and left fielder Carl Crawford, have been sidelined a significant amount of time.
Much was expected from the Dodgers based on the blockbuster non-waiver trade made last August with the Boston Red Sox that brought over first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, among others.
All of this didn’t matter because the Dodgers, who have the biggest payroll in the National League, were sinking fast until Puig’s arrival.
Since that time, the club has gone 15-11, and have pulled within four games of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Puig, who signed as an amateur free agent by the Blue Crew in 2012 for seven years and $42 million, has ignited something in the Dodgers that was missing.
Maybe it was youth, but Puig, a 22-year-old native of Cuba, can hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and play defense.
Puig is in unique company that includes all-time greats like Joe DiMaggio, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, and Ken Griffey Jr.
Some have compared Puig to one-time outfielder Raul Mondesi, who played 13 years in the majors, including seven with the Dodgers.
In his time with the Dodgers, Mondesi pounded 163 homers with 518 runs batted in, while batting .288.
Strong numbers, but many feel Puig will surpass Mondesi, the Rookie of the Year in 1994, because he’s four inches taller and 45 pounds heavier.
Puig is just starting out, but he’s already caught the national media’s attention. In 26 games, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound outfielder, has been mentioned as an All-Star candidate.
The statistics back up the claim that Puig’s worthy of being sent to New York’s Citi Field after banging out 44 hits for a .436 batting average, swatting seven homers, five doubles, one triple with 19 runs scored, and has a .467 on-base percentage and a .713 slugging percentage.
In Puig’s debut, he slapped two singles in a 2-1 victory over San Diego, followed that with a double and a two-homer effort in a 9-7 triumph over the Padres in which he drove in five runs.
In a 5-0 win over Atlanta, Puig belted a grand slam, and then mashed a homer against the Braves in a 2-1 triumph.
When the Dodgers cruised into New York on June 19 to face the Yankees for the first time ever at the great stadium for a regular season game, the city was abuzz.
The Dodgers lost the first game of the day-night doubleheader, 6-4, but Puig didn’t disappoint in the 6-0 night-cap win by getting two hits including a homer.
It’s early in Puig’s career, but he’s kick-started the Dodgers’ sagging offense, and has been simply amazing.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.