Dodgers phenom Puig evokes shades of two-sport star
Cuban sensation hit four homers, drove in 10 runs in first five career games
DENVER -- Let the hype begin.
Yasiel Puig made his big league debut on Monday, nearly four weeks shy of the first anniversary of the Cuban defector's signing with the Dodgers. He quickly energized the franchise, which has won four of the first five games in which he has played.
He hit four home runs in the five games, including an opposite-field grand slam off Atlanta's Cory Gearrin in the eighth inning to finish off a 5-0 victory over the Braves on Thursday night. After five games, Puig had a .421 average and 10 RBIs.
He has made the Dodgers and their fans giddy, feeling rewarded for the seven-year, $42 million investment the Dodgers made to sign him after two months of frustration watching a veteran team with the second highest payroll in baseball try to avoid last place in the National League West.
He has drawn comparisons to Bo Jackson.
Not so quick, said San Diego manager Buddy Black, a teammate of Jackson's with the Kansas City Royals and the manager of the team against which Puig played his first three big league games. Black still marvels at the raw physical abilities of Jackson, but he gives a nod to the potential long-term impact of Puig.
"I can see the comparisons, for sure,'' said Black. "Break down the tools. Running is real close, but I'd probably give the edge to Bo. Probably give Bo the edge on the arm. Raw power? I haven't seen enough [of Puig], but Bo had huge raw power.''
There is, however, a major edge for Puig.
"The thing about Bo, he was a little new to baseball,'' said Black. "He had been so focused on football. This kid looks like he has played a little more baseball. Bo was a great athlete who played baseball. This kid is a baseball player.''
Black -- a key part of a Royals team that won the 1985 World Series and whose teammates included the likes of George Brett, Hal McRae, and Dan Quisenberry -- said they used to marvel at Jackson, the only player to be selected to an All-Star team in two American sports and the winner of the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1985.
"We talked all the time about how little he had played the game, and then to do what he did against the best there was in the game,'' said Black. "It was a combination of his athleticism and his hand/eye coordination. You were just amazed at what he could do without a fundamental base.''
Puig, meanwhile, grew up playing baseball in his native Cuba.
-- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin has not been the same pitcher since he came off the disabled list. He was 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA before the lower back strain, and he is 0-3 in seven starts since. He has become the victim of the big inning. In seven starts, he had seven innings of three or more runs -- five runs once, four runs twice and three runs four times. That's 25 runs in those seven innings. He has allowed only seven other runs in in 35 innings.
-- The Angels (0-14), Blue Jays (0-16) and Yankees (0-17) were the only big league clubs, through Friday, that were winless when scoring two or fewer runs this season.
-- Miami went into Saturday with a Major League-low .227 average, and the only four players on the roster who have enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title rank among the 33 lowest averages for those qualifiers: Justin Ruggiano, No. 11 (.210); Greg Dobbs, No. 14 (.216); Placido Polanco, No. 28 (.234) and Juan Pierre, No. 33 (.238).
The Mets, who rank 29th with a .228 average, also have four of the bottom 33: Ike Davis, No. 3 (.166); Ruben Tejada, No. 10 (.209); John Buck, No. 11 (.217) and Lucas Duda, No. 27 (.232). Minnesota, meanwhile, ranks 24th with a .245 average, but has five players with averages lower than Pierre: Aaron Hicks, No. 4 (.180); Chris Parmelee, No. 21 (.222); Josh Willingham, No. 29 (.220); Brian Dozier, No. 25 (.231) and Ryan Doumit, No. 30 (.240).
-- Draft day brings back memories of 1992, when Houston scout Hal Newhouser pushed for the selection of high school shortstop Derek Jeter with the No. 1 pick in the draft. The ownership of the Astros at the time, however, had a $700,000 limit for the signing bonus, and it refused to chip in the extra $50,000 it would take to sign Jeter. As a result, the Astros were forced to go down their preference list, and they finally selected Phil Nevin when he agreed to sign for $700,000.
Think what the Astros could have been like if they dropped Jeter into the shortstop spot in a lineup that included Jeff Bagwell at first base and Craig Biggio at second base.
-- As much as Tampa Bay has relied on homegrown players for their recent success, the recent drafts have not been kind to the Rays. Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that none of the 253 players they drafted (and 167 they signed) from 2008-12 has worn the Rays uniform. The only one to even get into a big league game is infielder Derek Dietrich, who was traded in December to the Marlins and called up after a series of injuries and other roster moves in Miami.
From Out of Left Field:
Stats guru Bill Chuck says of the first 72 walk-off hits this year, there have been 24 home runs, 13 doubles, 34 singles and one triple, which was hit by Ryan Doumit of the Twins last Sunday. Doumit, who has caught and played the outfield for the Twins, went into Saturday with only seven triples in 2,902 Major League plate appearances.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.