Yasiel Puig Deserves to Be in More Than Just Rookie of the Year Conversation

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIJune 12, 2013

Could Yasiel Puig win both the 2013 NL ROTY and MVP?
Could Yasiel Puig win both the 2013 NL ROTY and MVP?Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While Yasiel Puig is already looking like the favorite to become the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, he’s been playing at a level that should have him in the NL MVP conversation as well.

No, it doesn’t matter that Puig has only played in nine games for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Through the first nine games of his career, he’s one of the game’s more feared players and has only been getting better since making his big league debut on June 6 against San Diego.

Puig’s debut was something that many won’t forget for a while. He went 2-for-4 and made a spectacular play in the outfield, turning a double play and sealing the victory for the Dodgers.

In Puig’s second game, he crushed the first two home runs of his career. Clearly he got acclimated to big league pitching fairly quickly. Over the course of his first nine games in the majors, Puig is hitting .471/.500/.882 with four home runs, 10 RBI and five runs. That’s absolutely incredible.

Puig’s has quickly made his way up the ladder in the Rookie of the Year debate. This season, several National League rookies have played very well. Shelby Miller is already one of the best pitchers in baseball, Evan Gattis is developing into a slugger and Puig’s teammate Hyun-Jin Ryu is pitching very well too.

Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times wrote after the Cuban outfielder’s sixth game that Puig had a chance to end a 16-year drought—which is the last time a Dodger won Rookie of the Year. While Ryu also has the opportunity, it seems more likely that if one will do it, it will be Puig.

The odds of Puig winning the NL Rookie of the Year at this moment are 2-1, which are the best odds behind Miller, who sits at 1-1 odds, according to Bovada. The guy has played in just nine games and is the runner-up to win the award. That speaks to how well Vegas believes he’ll play for the rest of the year.

If Puig can play at even half the level that he has to this point for the rest of the season, he’s going to be in the running for more than just the league’s top rookie. He’s going to be receiving at least a few votes for the top player in the NL. Bovada doesn’t have the odds for MVP, but you can bet he’d be toward the top of that list too.

Here’s a look at the other main MVP contenders who could stand in the way of Puig becoming the third rookie (after Ichiro Suzuki and Fred Lynn) to win both awards in the same year:

T. Tulowitzki COL .353 .420 .651 16 51 4.0
C. Gomez MIL .316 .357 .573 11 33 3.9
J. Votto CIN .328 .446 .520 11 31 3.0
C. Gonzalez COL .300 .377 .615 18 51 3.0

While there are many that could join the NL MVP race, those are the four players outside of Puig that I think will be in contention later in the year.

B/R MLB Lead Writer Jason Catania recently broke down Puig and came to the conclusion that, while most of his numbers are bound to regress, he has the raw talent to continue to succeed. Catania’s main point, though, is that Puig’s plate discipline is going to have to improve.

Puig has only walked twice this year in 36 plate appearances. One of the walks was intentional, so his walk percentage is really only 2.8 percent, which is very low for any regular in baseball. On the contrary, he’s struck out six times (16.7 percent), which is fine but could still be better. Overall, he needs to improve his pitch selection.

Last year, Giants catcher Buster Posey won the coveted award after hitting .336/.408/.549 with 24 home runs, 103 RBI and 78 runs, while playing well defensively. While it appears that many others in the NL will be putting up numbers close to that, Puig could certainly join the club.

Puig has played out of his mind and better than anyone thought he would, and he deserves all the credit in the world. That being said, when you talk at the water cooler about how great he’s played, don’t say how he’s going to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Say how he’s going to win NL Rookie of Year and NL MVP.