Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has only been in the majors for one day, so it makes sense that the first response to my question on Twitter/Facebook, "Who does Puig most remind you of?", was Moonlight Graham, who played in one major league game for the New York Giants in 1905 and was later portrayed in the movie Field of Dreams.
It's clear, though, that an athlete with Puig's size, speed and strength combination reminds baseball fans of only a few players who compare in some way or another. Many baseball experts hate comps for several reasons, including unnecessary expectations on young players. But baseball fans love comps, especially because it can take us back to another era.
Even better if it takes us back to our childhood.
Starting with the amazing game-ending throw in his big league debut that everyone seems to be talking about, it's only fair to bring up some of the most strong-armed right fielders of all time. And since he's wearing the same uniform, the Raul Mondesi comp would be a fair start.
1. Raul Mondesi
Mondesi, who had an .815 OPS and two 30-30 seasons (30-plus homers and 30-plus stolen bases) in 1,525 career games, was probably best known for having a cannon of an arm in right field. In fact, he has a tattoo of a cannon on his right arm, and that arm even has a nickname, "El Canon," which means "the cannon."
Roberto Clemente and Ichiro Suzuki also come to mind when thinking of players who could make that kind of strong and accurate throw from the warning track.
2. Bo Jackson
The name we've heard most associated with the 22-year-old Puig is Bo Jackson (6'1", 227 lbs), maybe one of the greatest athletes of all time.
It's an unfair comp for any baseball player, but this comp is mostly based on his football player-like physique. While Jackson was also a powerful NFL running back with elite speed, Puig looks more like a linebacker. But the kind of linebacker who can go sideline-to-sideline in a flash and put a serious hurting on a ball-carrier. Sort of like Ray Lewis (6'1", 245 lbs) or Patrick Willis (6'1", 240 lbs).
Puig is taller, though, at 6'3", the same height as another comp suggested by multiple readers. Not only was Vladimir Guerrero a freak of nature with his speed and power combination—he had eight seasons with 30-plus homers and 77 stolen bases from 2001-2002—but he also had the plus arm in right field and was considered an undisciplined free-swinger when he broke into the majors in his early 20s.
He was also one of the rare hitters who proved that it didn't matter. He could do damage on pitches outside of the strike zone as some think Puig can also do.
During his prime, Guerrero still walked a lot (84 walks in 2002), but that was mostly because pitchers weren't giving him anything close to the plate once he built up a reputation for being able to hit almost any pitch hard. He also never struck out more than 88 times in any of his 16 big league seasons, which included nine All-Star selections and an AL MVP award in 2004.
4. Yoenis Cespedes
The active player that Puig has been compared to the most is fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, who broke into the majors at 26 years of age in 2012 with 23 homers and 16 stolen bases while hitting in the middle of an A's lineup that scored the most runs in the majors over the second half of the season.
Cespedes also looks like a football player in a baseball uniform, although he's five inches shorter than Puig at 5'10". Like Cespedes, he received the unfair Bo Jackson comps coming into his rookie season, but he lived up to a lot of hype by coming in second in AL Rookie of the Year voting and 10th in AL MVP voting.
Other notable mentions on Twitter were Carlos Beltran (.857 OPS, 306 stolen bases in 16 seasons), Joe Carter (396 HR, 231 stolen bases in 16 seasons) and Sammy Sosa (.878 OPS, 234 stolen bases in 18 seasons). If Puig, who went 2-for-4 in his MLB debut, can come anywhere close to what those guys accomplished in their careers, he'll be remembered for more than just his potential.
What hitting coach Mark McGwire first observed about Puig back in spring training was his intelligence and ability to make adjustments, according to this article by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
If he's going to become a star, it's that ability to make adjustments that will allow him to reach the potential we've been hearing so much about since he signed his seven-year, $42 million big league contract last June.
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