Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Safe was the call. That's ironic because Yasiel Puig's 90-foot path to first base was anything but safe.
The reckless rock star of Chavez Ravine was at it again Saturday against the Giants. Instead of taking the conventional route to first, Puig barreled head- first into the bag for an infield single, his first and only hit of the afternoon.
If Puig is the new Charlie Hustle, he's about to be Charlie Out of Commission. Though his X-rays came back negative, an MRI revealed a strained ligament in his left thumb. The injury, suffered Saturday when Puig so daringly dove into first base, could cost him a handful of games if not a trip to the 15-day disabled list.
Saturday's events put a cherry on top of what has already been a wild start to the season for the young outfielder. In a span of two weeks, Puig has played cricket in Australia, been benched for showing up late to batting practice, suffered at least one made up injury and launched a 392-foot scud missile to left field on a pitch Shaq would have had a hard time reaching. That doesn't even include all the stop signs he's ignored on the base paths, cutoff men missed or the reckless driving arrest Puig endured during the offseason.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, Puig makes loose cannons looks tight.
Puig's shenanigans, many of which have been captured by the all-seeing lens of TMZ, have raised plenty of questions. Chief among them being, is this guy actually worth it? With each passing day, it's getting harder and harder to tell.
The trouble with Puig, especially from a fantasy perspective, is that there's really no one else we can compare him to. But that won't stop us from trying.
The immersion of Cuban players in MLB is a relatively new phenomenon, particularly for position players like Puig. The Hernandez brothers (Orlando and Livan) paved the way for Cuban pitchers in the mid-90s but hitters have been much harder to come by. The most high-profile of those hitters, outside of Puig of course, would have to be Oakland A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
You don't need 20/20 vision to see the similarities between the two. They're both power-hitting right-handers (Puig averaged 407.7 feet on his home runs last season, 403 for Cespedes) with a penchant for free-swinging (25.9 percent strikeout rate for Cespedes last season, 25.3 for Puig).
But let's hope they're not too similar, at least for Puig's sake. Cespedes followed up his breakout rookie season by hitting 52 points lower (.240 after hitting .292) with half as many wins above replacement (1.7 versus 3.4 in 2012). This year, he's off to an even worse start with five hits in 26 plate appearances.
It's hard to tell if Cespedes has gotten worse, unlucky or if it just took a year for opposing pitchers to figure him out. For Puig, the rest of the league caught on even faster. Puig's average has dipped to just .275 in 305 at bats since his legendary June (.436, 7 HR, 16 RBI). Over that span, he's blasted 13 HR with 33 RBI, which extrapolates to 25/64 for a full season. That's Adam Lind territory (.288, 23 HR, 67 RBI in 2013, 187.1 ADP in ESPN leagues).
If Puig is one part Cespedes, then he's at least two parts Bryce Harper. Harper still wins the medal for most eye black but Puig is just as aggressive on the base paths (probably to his detriment) and both are extremely passionate about slamming their faces into outfield fences. Bizarrely, this course of action hasn't resulted in much fantasy success for Harper, who watched his HR, RBI and SB totals fall during an injury-plagued 2013 campaign.
Going all out, as Puig does each game, comes with consequences. Fortunately for Manny Ramirez, he never had to worry about that. I mention Ramirez because he and Puig share a lot of the same diva tendencies.
More often than not, Ramirez was a fantasy stud. Even in his late 30s, Ramirez batted .322 with 44 HR and 156 RBI during a three-year stretch with the Dodgers. But the mood swings and overall lack of dedication always made him a risk, which is probably why he played for four different clubs over his last four seasons.
For all his antics, Ramirez never hit worse than .290 between 1995 and 2010. If that kind of consistency exists within Yasiel Puig's 235-pound body, we sure haven't found it yet. Here are his numbers from the last five-plus months:
June: .436, 7 HR, 16 RBI
July: .287, 3 HR, 7 RBI
August: .320, 3 HR, 8 RBI
September: .214, 6 HR, 11 RBI
March/April: .250, 1 HR, 4 RBI
Entertaining? Yes. A safe fantasy pick? Not even close.
Let's just hope Puig stays healthy so we can watch the fireworks.
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