ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Most say the Dodgers rookie is a worthy All-Star pick
As you might imagine, the subject of Yasiel Puig makes for stimulating conversation these days, including the clubhouse of the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Today, online fan voting will conclude, and we’ll know if Puig, the Los Angeles Dodger outfielder who’s been blazing a trail like a comet since being promoted from Double-A Chattanooga a few weeks ago, is a National League All-Star.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, and not Puig, was the leading vote-getter for the NL’s final spot.
The back-and-forth on Puig’s viability as an All-Star has been substantial. Most media types seem to embrace the notion of Puig as an All-Star.
Within the baseball establishment – and clearly, to a certain degree with fans – the resistance is palpable. You’ve got to be great for more than just a month. That’s been the standard argument, put forth most vocally by Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon.
The Isotopes have been paying attention to the Puig saga, like everyone else.
“I want Puig on my All-Star team,” shortstop Justin Sellers said. “I’ll tell you that. We can do some damage.”
Puig has batted over .400 since his arrival June 3, and there are those who draw a parallel between his joining the Dodgers and the team’s subsequent rise in the NL West standings.
And yet, LA shortstop Hanley Ramirez has a higher batting average than Puig (.419 to .407), plus a better OPS (1.199 for Ramirez to 1.102 for Puig), and the two have played the same number of games.
“Exactly!” Albuquerque manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “Should Hanley Ramirez be the (NL’s) starting shortstop?”
Of course, Ramirez is a proven All-Star; Puig, in essence, is a player with that new car smell and thus quite a curiosity. He seemed to fall out of the sky if you gauge national reaction to his numbers.
“I had no idea who he was,” Bundy said. “I’d never seen him play until spring training.”
At camp, Bundy said, it was obvious that Puig was gifted.
“I’ve never seen anyone have a start like he has,” Bundy said. “Even the outs he made were hard. It’s stupid.”
A writer on ESPNLosAngeles.com suggested this week that Ramirez is just as responsible for LA’s surge, if not more so.
The Journal spoke to more than half a dozen Isotopes about Puig and whether he should be an All-Star. Most of them answered very diplomatically, no doubt cognizant that they work for the same organization that Puig does.
“I’m fine with it, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Dodger,” said infielder Ian Stewart, who, with six years’ major league service, is probably as qualified to speak about Puig’s All-Star candidacy as any Isotope. “I don’t know what the cutoff is (with games played) to where a guy is deserving. But in my opinion, he’s deserving. He’s done enough.”
Bundy said maybe Major League Baseball ought to create a special slot for an upcoming star, like Puig or the Angels’ Mike Trout, or the Nationals’ Bryce Harper.
“I knew he could hit from the first time I saw him,” Isotopes hitting coach Franklin Stubbs said. “He was turning around 98 mile per hour fastballs in spring training. He never got overmatched.”
As with most everyone interviewed, players and coaches said they understood, from a fan’s standpoint, the fascination with Puig, a 22-year-old who defected from Cuba and then signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers.
Unfortunately for Isotopes fans, Los Angeles brought him straight from Tennessee to California. He likely flew over New Mexico; he just didn’t land here.
“Why not?” Stubbs finally said about Puig being an All-Star. “If I’m a fan, I’d love to see it. The All-Star Game is an exhibition game.”
“He’s putting up Hall of Fame numbers,” Albuquerque outfielder Alex Castellanos said. “I don’t see why not. He’s doing everything. Everything.”
And, from the Isotopes’ vantage point, it’s difficult to ignore what Puig has done for every player and coach in the system.
“Look at the impact he’s had on our ball club,” Bundy said. “He’s a big part of why we’re back in the race right now.”