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Yasiel Puig an All-Star just waiting for an invite

Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks

Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on during a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Puig left the game in the sixth inning after suffering an injury in the fifth inning, hitting the wall while making a catch. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 10-8. (July 3, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

Yasiel Puig walked, doubled and scored a run Friday night in the Dodgers' 10-2 victory over the Giants.

That's what fans of the rock-star rookie would call a bad day.

Through the first 30 games of his career, Puig has hit .420 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. He has 15 multihit games and gone hitless only three times. That production, combined with infectious energy and a propensity for dramatic plays, has led to a lively debate about whether he should be an all-star at Citi Field on July 16.

Good question, but the bigger one is whether 2013 baseball fans are witnessing the birth of a Hall of Famer.

Babe Ruth batted .304 with four home runs during his first 47 games. Ty Cobb, holder of baseball's highest career batting average at .366, hit .240 during a 41-game rookie year. Ted Williams batted .282 with six home runs during his first 30 games.

The Dodgers' 22-year-old rightfielder has them all beat.

Before Puig's June 3 call-up, the Dodgers were 23-32, fifth in the NL West, and manager Don Mattingly's job was believed to be in jeopardy. The Dodgers are 18-12 since and entered Saturday in a virtual tie with the Rockies for second place, 3 1/2 games out of first.

When the Dodgers signed the Cuban defector to a seven-year, $42-million contract last summer, Baseball America cited scouts who considered Puig "more of a solid than a spectacular prospect."

Comparing Cuban baseball to the majors is dicey, given the dearth of information available and limited number of players who have the talent, luck and nerve to defect.

Puig was a star in Cuba, hitting .330 with a .430 on-base percentage and 17 home runs in 327 at-bats during the 2010-11 season, numbers comparable to what Yoenis Cespedes, now an Oakland Athletics outfielder, did during the same span. It is unclear why Puig missed the following season, other than a suspension was involved.

Puig played just 63 games in the Dodgers' minor-league system, including 40 Class AA games at Chattanooga this year before being called up. In the minors, he hit .328 with a .405 OBP and 13 home runs across three levels. He went 5-for-8 with two home runs in his first two MLB games and hasn't let up.

It's generally accepted that every hitter has some weakness for pitchers to attack. Thus far, they haven't found one for Puig.

A righthanded hitter, he's batting .402 against righties and .469 against lefties; .476 at home and .357 on the road; .408 in wins, .438 in losses; .645 when leading off an inning.

Puig hits .773 (17-for-22) and has four home runs when putting the first pitch in play. Even with the pitcher ahead in the count, Puig has an .804 on-base plus slugging percentage.

A heat map of Puig's incredible June, when he made history by winning player of the month for his first month in the majors, reveals incredible plate coverage. Puig batted .455 or better in every area of the strike zone, except low and away. He has a .500 average on inside pitches and has even reached out to smack two low, outside pitches for hits.

Whether he makes the All-Star Game is a matter of politics and popularity. But stats say Puig is already something better: a baseball star.

Tags: Yasiel Puig , All-star , Dodgers , All-star game

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