On this date 24 years ago, Yasiel Puig was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba. He would spend 21 years in Cuba before he defected and sign a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Puig was able to defect and established residency in Mexico to be able to become a major league free agent. There’s where the Dodgers scouts saw him and decided on making him their next international signing. On June 28, 2012, the Dodgers signed Puig to a seven-year, $42 million contract.
From there, the Cuban outfielder went to play in the Arizona Rookie League team, where he would hit .400 with four home runs and 11 RBI in nine games. He was promoted to Advanced Single-A and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in August. In 14 games, he hit .327 and was going to play in the Arizona Fall League, but didn’t due to a staph infection.
In 2013, Puig was invited to Spring Training with the Dodgers and would have one of the best springs in recent memory. He hit .517 with three home runs, 11 RBI and four stolen bases. He had 30 hits and scored 16 runs in just 58 at-bats. Many believed he had a shot at making the Dodgers out of camp but the team already had outfielders Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Puig began the season in Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts.
He was called up to the majors on June 2 and made his debut the next night. In his debut, Puig had two hits and ended the game on a double play, where he caught the ball near the warning track and fired a strike to first base to double up the runner. The then 22-year-old went on to have one of the best months for a rookie in major league history. He hit .436 in 26 games in June, earning NL Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month honors. Puig also broke the franchise record for hits in a month by a rookie. The outfielder was almost voted into the All-Star game after just a month in the majors but lost to Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves in a final vote.
Puig assumed an everyday position in the Dodgers outfield and had a spectacular rookie season. He had a few ups and downs and was a constant target for criticism for his throws from the outfield and base running blunders, but overall, had a outstanding rookie year. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind fellow Cuban Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins. Puig finished the year hitting .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI in 104 games.
The eccentric outfielder enjoyed an offseason in which he transitioned to certified superstar, being seen around LA hanging with celebrities and court side at Los Angeles Laker games. He came into 2014 as the team’s starting right fielder. Puig made the All-Star team as a starter and participated in the Home Run Derby, although he did not hit a single home run. As the Dodger struggled with defense in center field, Puig shifted positions seamlessly. He finished the year at .296 with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs. In the playoffs, Puig struggled and was benched in favor of Andre Ethier in Game 4.
Puig has continued his rise to stardom and was recently chosen to be on the cover of MLB: The Show ’15.