Latecomers Puig, Myers make another big rookie year
Have they been up long enough to win awards over Ryu, Fernandez, Miller and others?
The 2012 rookie class, led by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, was off the charts, so the fairly universal reaction was that we wouldn't see freshmen like those for years to come.
Then along came Yasiel Puig, the Cuban Comet.
While Puig has astonished fans from the day he arrived at Dodger Stadium -- producing a game-ending double play with a stunning throw from the warning track to first base in his June 3 Major League debut -- the Dodgers' sensational outfielder has not been alone.
The Rays' Wil Myers, arriving on the scene 15 days after Puig, has emerged as an all-around player in the same mold. Five-tool talents are rare, but Myers and Puig fill the bill nicely with their game-breaking abilities.
Puig is hitting .371 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs while scoring 45 runs in 61 games. Myers is batting .325 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 44 games, scoring 26 runs. Defensively, both have produced highlight-reel plays and saved their pitching staffs runs.
While the results are similar, Puig and Myers bring totally different personalities into play. Puig is explosive and creative, testing the limits of his remarkable gifts -- and manager Don Mattingly's patience -- with his reckless abandon.
Myers is more controlled emotionally but no less impressive in his ability to rise to the moment, hitting .349 with runners in scoring position, compared to Puig's .310.
"He's kind of sophisticated in his knowledge regarding at-bats and game situations," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said of Myers. "His baseball acumen is actually very high. He has a lot of good stuff going on up there. He has good thoughts and he sees things on the baseball field. That's why he's so good."
Myers' teammates have been impressed with his adaptability. Like Puig, he has handled right and center field and hit in a variety of spots in the order.
"He has a short memory," Rays designated hitter Luke Scott said of Myers. "He's in his own little world and he's able to forget things really quickly, which is great. If you could put that in a glass and sell it, I would buy it and drink it."
Puig also has shown the ability to learn and adjust on the fly. No longer does he swing wildly at anything close to the plate, dramatically improving his discipline and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
"He's making adjustments," Mattingly said. "It's a cat-and-mouse game all the time with the guys like him. You're going to see pitchers try things. If it works, they're going to keep trying it. If it doesn't work, they'll try something else."
The question of the moment is whether the two 22-year-old outfielders will follow in the footsteps of Trout and Harper in claiming the Rookie of the Year awards in their respective leagues. Their late starts could influence Baseball Writers' Association of America voters, moving them other directions.
Even though Puig appears to be the stronger of the two candidates, his road to the award is more crowded with obstacles.
This 2013 rookie class is deep and talent-rich, with its primary strength on the mound. The lion's share of that talent is found in the National League, giving Puig considerable competition in his bid to succeed Harper.
Along with Puig's teammate, Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Marlins' Jose Fernandez, the Cardinals' Shelby Miller and the Braves' Julio Teheran are enjoying seasons warranting serious NL Rookie of the Year Award consideration. The Pirates' Gerrit Cole (5-5, 3.95 ERA) has a lot of ground to make up but could thrust his way into the conversation with a big finish.
Overshadowed by the spectacular Puig, Ryu has been consistently superb, going 11-3 with a 2.99 ERA. The Korean import leads the pack in wins along with Miller, while Fernandez (8-5) owns the best ERA (2.58) and lowest opponents' batting average (.193). Not to be overlooked is a group of quality NL relievers, including yet another Dodger, Paco Rodriguez. The lefty owns a 2.09 ERA in 55 appearances, holding hitters to a .148 batting average. With 15 holds, Rodriguez is second to the Cards' Trevor Rosenthal among rookies. Rosenthal has 25, one behind NL leader Mark Melancon of the Pirates. The Brewers' Jim Henderson has 16 saves in 19 chances and a 1.88 ERA, limiting hitters to a .183 average. Justin Wilson has been lights-out for the Pirates, going 6-1 with 10 holds, a 2.10 ERA and a .193 opponents' batting average.
Among NL position players, the Braves' Evan Gattis made an early splash with his power and leads all rookies with 15 homers and 47 RBIs, slugging .500. The Cards' Matt Adams is coming on, hitting .281 with a .486 slugging percentage.
Myers' chief competition could come from inside his own clubhouse. Tampa Bay's Chris Archer was the American League Pitcher of the Month for July, lifting his record to 6-4 with a 2.71 ERA and a .204 batting average yielded.
Like fellow North Carolina native Myers, Archer got a late start. He made his season debut on June 1, kicking into gear with a brilliant July (4-0, 0.73 ERA). The hard-throwing right-hander left his most recent start on Wednesday in Arizona with forearm tightness after getting five outs, but it is not considered serious.
Dan Straily (6-6, 4.19 ERA) has given the A's consistent innings in their AL West race with the Rangers. Making a late push following a spring injury, the Rangers' Martin Perez is 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA since settling into the rotation on June 22. He has allowed just four earned runs in his past 22 2/3 innings.
Another prominent AL Rookie of the Year Award candidate is Jose Iglesias, the Tigers' shortstop with Jhonny Peralta suspended for the balance of the season. Iglesias began the season hitting in Ted Williams territory for the Red Sox. Dealt to Detroit, Iglesias is humming along at .324 at the moment. But it's his defense and intuitive nature that have had his new club raving since the 23-year-old athlete was acquired from Boston in the July 30 three-team swap also involving the White Sox.
"I can tell you in the short period of time [around him] what he is: He is a very bright young man, very smart and very baseball smart," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "and very street smart. Very impressive. I really like him a lot."
David Lough (.303) has been a weapon for the surging Royals. Oswaldlo Arcia has flexed his muscles for the Twins with a .452 slugging percentage, while J.B. Shuck has given the Angels production, hitting .288, in the absence of injured Peter Bourjos.
It is unlikely there will be a unanimous Rookie of the Year Award winner this year along the lines of Trout, who set the bar at an unrealistic location with his historic 2012 campaign and is performing at an even higher level as a sophomore.
Lined up behind the Angels' superstar in the balloting were Yoenis Cespedes of the A's, the Rangers' Yu Darvish, Wei-Yin Chen of the Orioles and Jarrod Parker of the A's.
Harper prevailed in the NL by drawing 16 of 32 first-place votes. The Nationals' star was followed by D-backs lefty Wade Miley, the Reds' Todd Frazier and the Rockies' Wilin Rosario in the balloting.
Among those who didn't perform enough to draw support in the rookie voting were such emerging stars as Jean Segura and Matt Carpenter and pitchers Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin, Hisashi Iwakuma and Matt Moore.
Like the big fish, Trout, the class of 2012 set a gold standard for all future rookies.
Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.