Yasiel Puig and the 20 Most Impressive All-Time Starts to an MLB Career
Yasiel Puig's Major League Baseball career is off to an impressive start, though this is hardly the first time we've seen immediate dominance from a young player. In past generations and even recently, rookies have enjoyed comparable success following their initial call-up.
Entering June 25, Puig is 20 games into MLB life. The sample isn't insignificant, but anything smaller would be.
Therefore, the individuals on this list—those who wowed us as fantastic freshmen—made it because they maintained a high quality of performance for at least as long as Puig has. For starting pitchers and relievers, we looked at career-opening stretches of at least five and 10 games, respectively.
Many of the truly timeless first-year performances began with awkward swings and shaky command. Even Ryan Braun and Ted Williams, who finished with fantastic numbers, dealt with dry spells during series early in their careers.
They failed to make the cut.
Still, the typical baseball fan shouldn't have much trouble recognizing these 20 names. They hogged headlines for weeks, months or even an entire season before finally cooling off.
All game logs and monthly splits provided by Baseball-Reference.com.
Many of us conveniently forget that players like Fred Lynn, Buster Posey, Mike Trout and Fernando Valenzuela were rookie sensations in their second major league seasons.
Major League Baseball is weird like that, allowing youngsters to retain their prospect status if they don't see enough plate appearances, innings pitched or days on the active roster.
Of course, players who lucked out in such a way and had an entire offseason to fine-tune their bodies and game plans were not considered for this article. We're only interested in those who truly surged out of the starting gate.
20. Vince Coleman (St. Louis Cardinals, 1985)
Stealing 21 bases as a rookie is a great accomplishment.
By doing so through only 20 career games, Vince Coleman earned inclusion on this prestigious list. He also proved to be an effective outfielder with two assists during those first few memorable weeks.
The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals actually limped to an 8-12 record despite his individual efforts.
However, Coleman remained in the leadoff spot throughout the season as they finished with 101 wins and the National League pennant.
1985 game log (April 18-May 9)
19. Brad Ziegler (Oakland Athletics, 2008)
Talk about an unlikely success story.
Brad Ziegler began his professional career at 23 years old, and prior to 2007 (his age-27 campaign), the right-hander was just a mediocre starter in the minors.
He rose quickly when he dropped his arm angle and learned to embrace relief work.
According to FanGraphs, Ziegler was reliant on an 85 mile-per-hour fastball as a rookie, throwing it 86.6 percent of the time. Yet his great location and tricky release point enabled an outstanding streak.
He opened his Oakland Athletics career with 39 consecutive innings of scoreless pitching before B.J. Upton ruined everybody's fun on August 14. An unsustainable BABIP had a lot to do with it, but so did Ziegler's remarkable ability to induce ground balls.
2008 game log (May 31-August 12)
18. Terry Pendleton (St. Louis Cardinals, 1984)
Terry Pendleton was called up for the St. Louis Cardinals the year before Vince Coleman, seizing the third baseman's job and a spot in the middle of the batting order.
The Cards waited until the second half of 1984 to recall the short switch-hitter from the minors, and he made them regret not doing it sooner.
Pendleton didn't hit for much power until later in his career, but he sure could put the bat on the ball. He struck out only three times through his first 65 MLB plate appearances. His batting average didn't drop below .400 until the middle of August.
1984 game log (July 18-August 7)