By Kevin Aherne
When a top prospect gets his first call up to the Big Show, they step onto the field under a spotlight. Expectations are high, patience is short, and the results are often disappointing. There is a lot of pressure put upon these young shoulders, and many of these prospects are fast-tracked to the Majors before they are ready. However, in recent years, there has been an influx of youngsters who are making an impact almost immediately, and the Dodgers seem to have one of these budding stars in Yasiel Puig.
This time last year, Puig was in Cuba, on the verge of his second attempt at defection. At 21 years old, the young slugger had already compiled a fairly impressive resume; winning a Bronze Medal for Cuba at the World Junior Baseball Championships, as well as establishing himself as a star for Cienfuegos of the Cuban National Series. In 2011, he tried to leave Cuba, but his attempted defection was thwarted, earning him a two year ban from play in the Cuban league.
Undeterred, Puig made a second escape attempt from Cuba in 2012, this time safely arriving in Mexico. With his newly acquired freedom, Yasiel was also now eligible as a free agent in Major League Baseball. Every team knew of the potential that this young man possessed, but it was the Los Angeles Dodgers who ponied up the cash to sign him in late June of 2012.
On June 3rd, due to a series of injuries in Los Angeles' outfield, The Dodgers called up Yasiel Puig from the Southern League. He made his Major League debut in right field the same day, earning a single in first at bat. He finished the game 2 for 4, with an impressive outfield assist in the ninth inning.
However, it was in Puig's second game, that he truly made his presence felt. Batting leadoff, Yasiel started the game with a first inning double. He proceeded to hit a monster home run in his seventh career at bat, followed by another blast in his eighth. His stat line for this game: 3-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI.
After posting his first O-Fer in game three, Puig came back strong with a grand slam in Sunday's game against the Padres. He continued slugging the ball with another key home run on Monday against the Braves. After just five career games, Yasiel Puig had accumulated four long balls and ten RBI.
While he is not likely to maintain this pace, Puig has come out of the gates swinging, making quite the impression along the way. Even if his numbers level off, he is still projected to be one of the most productive outfielders in the game. With the Dodgers' lackluster 2013 campaign so far, Yasiel Puig has become a much welcomed distraction. Don Mattingly may feel his seat starting to cool.
Yasiel Puig (through 8 career games)
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