The story of the year in Major League Baseball so far this season has undoubtedly been that of Yasiel Puig. The young outfielder sparked the struggling Los Angeles Dodgers and has brought them right back into the thick of things in the NL West with his powerful hitting, cannon for an arm, and overall charisma that attracts fans to him. Hollywood has been a buzz over Puig and the hype is much deserved as the youngster has put together quite a season so far. Recently, Major League Baseball decided to put Puig on the Final Vote Ballot for the All-Star game. Although Puig could have a very bright future, unlike every Dodger fan, and ESPN, I’m not quite ready to send him to the summer classic.
Let’s rewind to 8 years ago Braves fans. Actually, literally 8 years ago yesterday was July 7th, 2005. If your wondering the significance of this date, it is the day in which Jeff Francoeur made his MLB debut in a Braves uniform. His first hit in the major leagues was a three run home run, and instantly Braves country went into Frenchy mania. The story goes on from there, Jeff continued to dazzle in his first few weeks in the big leagues and was donned the next big thing for the Atlanta Braves. A month and a half after his debut, he was spotted on newsstands everywhere on the cover of Sports Illustrated. SI famously called him “The Natural”. However, Braves fans sadly know where the story goes from there. Disappointingly, sometimes painfully downhill.
Puig’s similarities to Frenchy are scary. The electric bat, the cannon arm, the natural physical ability to play the game. By all accounts both of these guys should be perennial All-Stars. That’s not how baseball works though. Puig is only 32 games into what will more than likely be a long career, he has shown how good he can be. But Dodger fans have yet to see how bad he can be and I believe that time is coming.
Through the first 23 games of their career’s Francoeur and Puig have numbers that are eerily similar.
Francoeur: 81 AB’s, .432 batting average, 8HR’s, .827 slugging percentage
Puig: 89 AB’s, .427 batting average, 7 HR’s, .708 slugging percentage
By these statistics alone you could say that Francoeur was arguably better than Puig has been to this point. However, it was around the 30 game mark in 2005 where Frenchy began to struggle. Or actually, Major League pitching began catching up to Jeff. He still finished his rookie season with a .300 batting average on the dot, 14 home runs and a .549 slugging percentage. Although Jeff had a few more solid seasons for Altanta, he was never of All Star caliber and at the end of his ride with the team was basically handed to the Mets for Ryan Church. The simple fact is that Major League pitching figured out how to keep Francoeur off the base paths. I believe eventually they will do the same for Yasiel Puig.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proclaiming that Puig will not be able to have an All Star type career. I’m not saying he’s the next Jeff Francoeur. All I am doing is making a comparison and showing that eventually pitchers will find the holes in his swing and you better believe they will exploit them, just as they did to Frenchy. The All Stars are the players that find a way to fill those holes and show major league pitching that they do indeed belong in this league. Frenchy was never really able to do that. Although he had some success after his Atlanta career, he was never able to sustain that. He is a current free agent after being let go by the Kansas City Royals a few weeks ago and currently holds a .264 lifetime batting average. That is in no way a terrible mark, and is nothing to shake your head at. But after those first few months in the majors and the expectations that Braves fans had for him, that is quite a disappointment.
This isn’t just something that happened to Francoeur. You see this a lot in Major League Baseball. Players come up from the minor league’s and tear it up immediately in the bigs. However, once pitchers get a look at them and figure them out, the struggles begin. Personally, I am a fan of Yasiel Puig. I love what he does on the field and the overall energy he plays with. Inevitably though, pitchers will figure him out. For Dodgers fans sake, I hope that Yasiel is able to adjust to how the pitchers pitch to him and become an All Star. Because that fall from grace is very sad and frustrating to watch. I’m not going to call Puig a future bust because honestly, I don’t believe that. However, after watching this story before 8 years ago, I’m just not ready to call him “The next big thing.”
Oh and by the way, #VoteFreddie.