Thursday, June 20, 2013

Puig, The Incomparable

Puig may be incomparable, but leave it to the prolific Jerry Crasnick at to try:

[Dodgers scout Logan] White takes understandable pleasure in recounting how Puig became a Dodger. He settled on the $42 million figure because he liked Puig better than Jorge Soler, who received a $30 million package from the Cubs, and thought he had more upside than Yoenis Cespedes, who signed with Oakland for $36 million. White stayed true to his convictions after a spirited exchange with global cross-checker Paul Fryer in a Mexico City hotel room at 2 a.m. Fryer questioned White's sanity, and White responded by challenging Fryer's fortitude.

"It took a while for us to get our minds around it," White said.

Now the kid is a sensation, and people are actually debating whether he should be an All-Star after 13 games and 48 at-bats in the majors. Puig has captivated fans in Los Angeles and energized scouts who spend so much time packing and unpacking they can't remember what city they're in half the time.

How impressive is Puig? All that speed and power come in an imposing 6-foot-3, 235-pound package, so Bo Jackson's name is getting tossed around a lot these days. One talent evaluator contacted for this story compared him to Roberto Clemente, and an AL scout seemed grateful for the opportunity to talk about him.

"When you see special things happen on a baseball field, it gives you tingles," the scout said. "I'd like to help you write a great story on this kid, because I think he's a freak."

Entering Wednesday's day-night doubleheader against the Yankees in the Bronx, Puig is hitting .479 (23-for-48) with a 1.271 OPS and a dramatic flair that can't be quantified. He hits grand slams to win games, throws out baserunners to end games, and leaps moderately sized buildings in a single bound.

When baseball personnel people try to summon names from the past to describe budding stars in the present, some habits are hard to break. Historical comparisons are typically made along racial or ethnic lines, so Lorenzo Cain gets compared to Mike Cameron, Christian Yelich is likened to Jacoby Ellsbury or a young Shawn Green, and Yasiel Puig's main comps are Jackson, Raul Mondesi, a young Sammy Sosa or his fellow Cuban defector, Cespedes.

But Puig is so unlike anything that's arrived on the scene in recent years, it's doubly challenging for scouts to get a read on him. Although he's very raw in a lot of ways, three of his five tools -- power, speed and arm -- rate a 70 or above on the 20-80 scouts' scale. The other two, his glove and pure hitting ability, are well above average.

"With some players it's really easy to say, 'He reminds me of someone,'" said an AL pro scouting director. "With others you have a hard time. I don't really have a comparison for this guy. He's Puig."

Crasnick goes on to compare Puig to Bryce Harper, Derek Jeter, Matt Kemp, Kirby Puckett, Ichiro Suzuki, and Aroldis Chapman (cue: obvious speeding joke). It's worth a look, check out the whole piece.