Cuba's Puig has countrymen's support
Dodgers' Final Vote hopeful is latest import to capture spotlight
Every once in a while, a player from Cuba makes it to the big leagues and captures this nation's attention.
The player usually runs like a deer, has a cannon for an arm, and carries the type of star power that can send packed stadiums into a frenzy.
And you thought Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes was special.
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is a bona fide phenomenon, the perfect mix of talent, old-school grittiness and Latin flair. He might not just be the best Cuban import since Cespedes, he's on track to be one of greatest players to come over from the island.
"Watching him on TV, it looks like he's got a lot of good tools," Hall of Famer Tony Perez said. "He swings the bat well, he does a lot of things well, so far. I don't know what they still have back there [in Cuba], but these guys who have been coming out lately, they're showing some good things. It's good for baseball."
Cuba's ties to Major League Baseball run deep and includes historic names like Perez, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva and Cookie Rojas. Brothers Livan and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez followed their big league dreams from Cuba to the United States in the 1990s, and Jose Contreras followed a few years later.
But Puig is the latest star, perhaps the biggest star, in a recent wave of talented players like Cespedes, who was recently added to the American League's Home Run Derby team, Cincinnati All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, Miami shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, White Sox teammates Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez, Boston infielder Jose Iglesias, Texas outfielder Leonys Martin, and Seattle slugger Kendrys Morales.
"I'm not surprised at all what he's done. He's a great player," Cespedes said. "Age don't mean nothing, and everybody in Cuba knows how good he can be. He's going to do special things."
It's certain that Puig's countrymen will definitely #VotePuig.
"I think if they go by the numbers and the excellent job he has done since he's been up, he should be there," Chapman said. "He earned the right to do it the way he's been playing and the numbers he's put up. He has the numbers to be an All-Star."
Puig's numbers are mind-blowing. His impact has been immediate. Puig has multiple hits in 17 of his first 33 games and according to SABR, Puig is the second player since 1950 to maintain a batting average of .400 or better through at least his first 130 at-bats.
The other player to accomplish the feat was Oliva.
"[Puig] reminds me a little bit of Willie Mays when he was called up," Rojas said. "He has all the ability. He could run, he could throw, he can play the outfield. Power. I think eventually, he is going to be a home run hitter with a lot of RBIs. I think he's going to be great."
Puig is already off to a great start. Since making his big league debut on June 3, the right-handed hitter leads the big leagues in hits with 54 and ranks among Major League leaders in with a .409 batting average, eight home runs, a .436 on-base percentage and slugging with a .667 mark.
He's been a sparkplug for the Dodgers' offense and is a big reason the club is racing up the standings in the NL West.
"He has done a great job since he came up," Viciedo said. "I think that they should consider him to at least to be in the All-Star Game, absolutely. I'm very happy for him, especially being a young Cuban that is able to do that."
Ramirez echoed his teammate's sentiments.
"I'm happy for him. I hope they vote for him. He deserves to be there," Ramirez said. "He's worked hard. He has taken advantage of his opportunity."
Now in its 12th year, the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Saturday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and ends Thursday at 1 p.m. PT. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote online. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 12-26. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15 percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email Friday to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Puig, simply text message N5 to 89269, and to vote for Gonzalez, text message N3. In Canada, fans should text N5 or N3 to 101010. Standard message and data rates may apply.
For the second consecutive year, the Final Vote will include a social balloting element as Twitter support from the candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their Final Vote totals. From 7 a.m.-1 p.m. PT on Thursday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the overall vote total used to determine the American League and National League winners. Fans may follow @MLB on the popular social networking service for the latest standings updates in advance of the 1 p.m. PT balloting deadline.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.
"I saw him when I was in Miami on television down there. He's demonstrating to be a powerful batter here in the United States," Morales said. "I'm really happy that one of my countrymen is coming here and doing what he's doing. I think he should be in, but that's the fan's decision."