Previewing Yasiel Puig's 1st Chance to Take Yankee Stadium by Storm
On Tuesday evening, Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig will take the field for the first time at Yankee Stadium, or, in other words, Puigmania will invade New York City.
The 22-year-old Cuban phenom, who's hitting .479/.500/.771 across his first 50 major league plate appearances, will be front and center for an old-school, cross country, interleague battle between the Dodgers and Yankees.
As baseball fans in New York settle in to watch baseball's newest phenom, expect two interesting, yet distinct narratives to form in the stands and broadcast booths over the course of the mini two-game series: Puig's play and why he's suiting up for the Dodgers rather than a team like the Yankees.
Puig meets New York Yankees media Tuesday.— Beto Duran (@DuranSports) June 13, 2013
Of course, if the first two weeks of his major league career are any indication of what's to come in New York, Puig will excel on a grand stage.
With opposite field power that is reminiscent of Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza and Juan Gonzalez, Yankee Stadium, which usually plays into the favor of left-handed hitters with pull power, can play into Puig's strength.
During Los Angeles' stay in New York, they'll face a pair of right-handed pitchers, Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda.
On Tuesday, Puig's bat will have a chance to do major damage against Hughes.
Not only does the 26-year-old right-handed pitcher allow an extreme number of fly balls, but he pitches in a park where fly balls often turn into cheap home runs. It helps explain why Hughes' ERA is nearly three full runs higher in the Bronx (6.52) than away (3.73). Since the start of the 2012 season, he's allowed 48 home runs, including 13 this season.
Wednesday will be a tougher matchup for Puig, but Hiroki Kuroda, an ex-Dodger facing his original MLB club for the first time, is due to regress to the mean sooner than later. Some of Kuroda's success this season is due to only allowing 7.1 percent of fly balls against him to leave the yard. On the other hand, over 44 percent of balls lifted into the air by Puig have left the park. In other words, something has to give.
While Puig's at-bats, baserunning and prowess in the outfield will be dissected this week, expect the narratives around his 2012 signing to resurrect, specifically why a team like the Dodgers were willing to spend for him, but the Yankees were not.
As New York suffers through an injury plague and a down offensive season, especially with characters like Thomas Neal, Brennan Boesch and Lyle Overbay garnering starts in right field, fans will look at a 22-year-old star outfielder and wonder what could have been if the Yankees were willing to spend.
Why have Yanks passed on Puig, Cespedes, and Chapman? Cashman says it's all about the tax, man. http://t.co/NW8WD7aL7T— John Harper (@NYDNHarper) June 16, 2013
Aside from the obvious need for a young, All-Star caliber positional player in the middle of the lineup, New York has also been lacking in the department of marquee attractions early on this season. While Robinson Cano is one of the brightest stars in the game and CC Sabathia's starts still should be treated with the reverence of watching a future Hall of Famer, ratings are down on the YES Network, and attendance, despite a winning product, is not where it once was for New York.
It's hard to imagine Puig continuing his blistering pace, but his talent very well may be worth the $42 million that Los Angeles offered him to procure it last summer.
As Yankee fans watch his powerful bat, speed and rocket arm this week, it's going to be easy to wonder why the organization didn't make a legitimate bid for him in July of 2012.
Is Puig baseball's next great star?
With Puigmania hitting New York, production and controversy are sure to follow.
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