In a season as long as baseball, there are always injuries. For this reason, we knew we'd see Yasiel Puig in the majors at some point this season.
After a breakout spring, the Dodgers made the right decision in sending Puig to the minors to get a little more experience. After all, despite his emmense talent and ability, Puig still hadn't played organized, competitive baseball in over a year save for 82 plate apperances in rookie ball last season. But with a crowded yet injury-prone outfield that included Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp, it wasn't hard to see this opportunity coming for Puig.
The hype machine for Puig has been in full effect since he batted over .500 this spring, and .313/.383/.599 performance in Double-A Chattanooga hasn't done anything to slow it down. In fact, he was going faster than ever when he was arrested last month for an extreme speeding charge, only adding fuel to the skepticism that exists about his maturity.
In that regard, it may be a good thing that Puig is in the majors now where the Dodgers can keep a closer eye on him, but otherwise, there's little doubt that Puig is in the majors before the Dodgers would have liked. That being the case, it's going to be important for Dodgers' fans not to expect Mike Trout-type things out of Puig right away, a point made by Bill Shakin of The Los Angeles Times today. No matter how talented Puig may be, Trout's 2012 season was historic in the amount of success he was able to have and it's unlikely to be repeated up the freeway this year.
The more common (and perhaps ridiculous) comparisons that are being made for Puig, however, are Bo Jackson and Yoneis Cespedes, mainly for the lack of freak athletes who have displayed the combinations of size and speed featured by that select group. In running with those comparisons, however, it's important to point out that both players got by on pure athletic ability despite relatively undisciplined approaches to the game, most specifically in terms of plate discipline, but in the case of Cespedes, also because of his propensity to get thrown out on the bases.
Puig will undoubtedly flash us with displays of brilliance during this stretch in the majors, which could last just 11 days until Matt Kemp is slated to return from the disabled list but could also become a perminent address for the young Cuban. Between Andre Either's tenuous relationship with manager Don Mattingly and his utter lack of production, it's not hard to envision Puig performing well enough over the next two weeks to remain in the lineup even upon Kemp's return, especially after Mattingly's name-dropping of Trout as a possibility for the type of impact Puig might have on the moribund Dodgers.
But sandwiched between those flashes of brilliance are just as sure to be some struggles. Puig is just 22-years old, and despite an adequate walk rate of nine percent this year, his plate discipline has dropped each time he's moved up a level. If that trend continues into the majors and drops into the 5-6 percent range, he'll have to hit every bit of .300 to avoid making a ton of outs.
Yes, Puig could jump-start a Dodgers team in desperate need of an ass-kicking, and we saw in spring that even against major league competition, he can get as hot as hot can be. But none of that equals long-term sustained success. If Puig is going to travel down the same path as Cespedes, he'll have to develop on the fly and adjust-back when the league adjusts first to him, something Cespedes is struggling to do this season.
Until the league figures him out, however, we could see some really exciting stuff out of Puig, and that may have a more positive effect on the Dodgers than any home run he might hit.