Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On Puig

There aren’t a lot of positives to discuss in a 9-0 loss.  But allow me to mention one.  Yasiel Puig.

Puig was a player I was thrilled the Dodgers reached out and acquired this last season.  Time has limited my research on international prospects as a part time blogger, but I had seen video of this Cuban defector.  The footage was crude, but the talent displayed on it was evidently seen.  This kid was a physical specimen.  His bat had pop, his arm was strong, and his speed was impressive.  Dodger scouts must have felt the same way because the Dodgers won out the bidding for his services with a $42 million offer for 7 years.  

Ned Colletti said in July, 2012 that “our people believe he’ll be better than Cespedes.”  (At blogger night Q&A  session, Dodger Stadium). That prediction remains to be prophetic, but what I’ve seen so far has made me a believer.

Yasiel Puig with Eddie Oropesa, his translator and mentor (photo by Luis Sinco/LA Times)

He’s a legitimate 5-tool player.  For two days I have seen him pound he ball in batting practice and today he saw his first game action.  Puig grounded into what should have been a routine double play, but his hustle beat out the throw.  He threw a dart in to second base on a single to right field that the Sox batter had inklings of stretching into a double.  Then in his final at bat of the day, he hit a gapper into left center field and he motored around the base paths before Tim Wallach put the breaks on him as he rounded second, undoubtedly because the Dodgers were down 9-0 at the time.

Puig is a keeper.  A full year in the minors will provide the seasoning that he’ll need before being a prime candidate to take a starting major league spot.  Who’s spot he’ll take is up for debate, but the problem is a nice one to have.  

There is no doubt that Puig could probably hold his own in the Major Leagues right now, but the wise move is to have him hone his skills in Chattanooga or maybe even Albuquerque.  What few of us realize is that Puig spent a year away from the game altogether as Cuba punished him for a defection attempt earlier.  Then last year, he dominated the Arizona League for a few weeks before being promoted to High A Rancho Cucamonga where he dominated as well.

There are those that follow the Cuban Premier League game that rated Puig as the league’s top prospect in 2010-11.  With a stat line that year of 327 ABs, 17 homers, 47 RBI and 78 runs scored.  This young man was coveted by Major League scouts dating back to that time.   

The full story of his defection might never be known, but it was a scary ordeal and something that Puig doesn’t like talking about.  The lone comments he has stated in some Spanish language interviews were that his escape was extremely dangerous and that once in Mexico, his precarious situation wasn't over as he witnessed some very violent episodes.

Now, happy to be in the States, Puig is thriving.  there are those that compare him to Raul Mondesi in his younger days.  Those comparisons may be inaccurate due to Puig’s imposing size,  (6'3", 250 lbs.) but his speed is comparable.  His arm doesn’t seem to be as strong as Raul’s, but his power seems better.  Heads turn when this man takes batting practice.  Pitchers running in the outfield keep watch when he steps into the box for fear of the missiles he launches their way. 

Those fans heading to CBR this spring are in for a treat as they watch Puig display his talents.  Enjoy it guys.  A trip to see Puig is worth the travel and admission.  I see him as having as high a ceiling as any player in the Dodger organization.

Yasiel Puig signs for everyone he came in contact with on Friday (photo by Evan Bladh)

Oh, and I almost forgot.  He signs autographs for EVERYBODY.  On Friday, Puig spent 45 minutes after practice signing for every single fan that patiently waited for his autograph.  His interaction with fans is great and he enjoys the attention.

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