Following Sunday’s slate of games Major League Baseball will break for its annual all-star game which goes Tuesday night in New York. Heading into the game, one of the biggest stories is the phenomenal play of Los Angeles Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig (pictured). A native of Cuba, the 22-year old Puig represented his country in several international tournaments at the junior and senior level before defecting in 2012 and taking up residence in Mexico. In June of that year he signed a seven year $42 million contract with the Dodgers.
Shortly after signing the contract Puig was sidelined with a staph infection in his elbow that required surgery. At spring training this year he batted .526 in the Cactus League, but despite his strong performance the Dodgers opted to return him to the minors for more seasoning. On June 2 he was called up by L.A. In his major league debut against the San Diego Padres he went 2 for 4. The next night he hit two home runs, doubled and drove in five runs. Puig continued his torrid pace throughout June, ending up with a .436 batting average and a .713 slugging percentage with seven home runs and five stolen bases. His performance garnered him both the National League Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month Awards — the first time both awards have gone to the same player in his first month in the major leagues.
As word spread about Puig’s performance baseball fans began pushing through their write-in votes to have him added to the National League All-Star team. Baseball purists argued that it was far too early in Puig’s major league career to anoint him an all-star, but in a little over a month he received an astonishing 15.5 million votes from fans. With 19.7 million votes, though, Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman received the all-star nod over Puig — which apparently set off a bit of a firestorm in the Twitterverse.
In July Puig cooled off somewhat, although heading into the all-star break he’s still batting .397. He’s also coping with a sore hip which caused him to miss parts of two games this week. When teams resume play later this week in the second half of the season it will be interesting to see if the rookie can continue his strong performance for the Dodgers who sit 2.5 games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.