Can Yasiel Puig's Rookie Season Surpass Mike Trout's Legendary 2012?
The legend of Los Angeles Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig is growing by the minute, captivating the baseball world and giving life to what felt like a dead season at Chavez Ravine.
If this narrative sounds familiar, you aren't losing your mind.
Just one year ago, Mike Trout, after a poor 2011 debut with the AL team in Los Angeles, emerged as the most valuable player in the game from the moment he arrived from Triple-A Salt Lake City.
In the 139 games played by Trout last summer, the youngster (who turned 21 in August) embarrassed American League pitchers to the tune of a .326/.399/.564 slash line, slamming 65 extra-base hits, stealing 49 bases and playing the best defensive center field of anyone on the planet.
Despite the Angels owning the best record in the league during Trout's tenure, their early-season slump cost the 2012 MVP runner-up a chance to play in October.
Now, there's a new phenom to hit town, bursting on the scene this week for the Dodgers as a chiseled, power-hitting specimen.
Puig might look more like Bo Jackson or Mike Trout, but he plays like Vladimir Guerrero. Just pure exuberance and talent— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) June 5, 2013
The idea of Yasiel Puig—despite a robust 1.500 OPS and cannon for an arm displayed thus far— outplaying Trout's 2012 is ridiculous.
Pitchers will adjust as Puig's tendency to be a swinger more than a hitter will emerge, and the numbers won't stay this good over the long haul.
Yet there is one way for Puig to top Trout in the eyes of Los Angeles baseball admirers: lead the Dodgers out of the abyss and into the 2013 postseason, something Trout, despite his virtuoso performance, could not do for the Angels in 2012.
To be fair, the direction of a baseball franchise can't solely be carried by one player, regardless of the greatness exhibited by that individual.
The 2013 Dodgers have issues in the bullpen, at the back end of the starting rotation and with depth in their lineup, but Puig's presence, especially if he can swing the bat at a very productive level, can alleviate some of those problems moving forward.
In fact, if Puig proves that his opening act is no fluke, there will be a large segment of Dodgers fans who expect the team to explore moving Andre Ethier in a trade.
Yasiel Puig can hit. He's going to force the Dodgers to find a taker for Andre Ethier (a fit for White Sox at right price).— Phil Rogers (@ChiTribRogers) June 4, 2013
If that occurs, anything, including relief pitching help, that a trade could net would provide an added bonus moving forward. It would improve the roster in a multitude of ways, such as allowing full-time, uninterrupted playing time for Puig, as well as adding to an area of need.
Over the course of the next few months, Puig's raw talent and athleticism can literally win Los Angeles multiple games. No, not in the sense of WAR, but rather the day-by-day tangible victories that will endear him to the fanbase and organization.
Puig hits a homer! Puig pulling a Trout?!!!— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) June 5, 2013
Puig's true worth over the course of his contract and time with the Dodgers will ultimately be greater as he matures, ages and learns how to handle big league pitching on a consistent basis.
Can Puig surpass Trout's 2012 season?
That doesn't rule out a majestic run over the next few months, much like what we saw from Trout in 2012, but his development likely isn't ready to allow him to truly be an MVP this season.
When assessing how vital Puig can be to the Dodgers' 2013 campaign, look toward the hole he's filling with his raw athleticism and how maybe, just maybe, his play can ignite a team sagging under the weight of unfulfilled expectations.
Puig isn't a better player than Mike Trout, and likely will never be.
He can, however, help lead the 2013 Dodgers further than Trout led the 2012 Angels.
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