The traditionally relaxed Dodger Stadium crowd has exploded with excitement with the debut of 22-year-old Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig. The 6’3, 245-pound rookie put his spectacular skills at the plate on display immediately upon being called up to the big leagues, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and a double just one day after his 2-for-4 debut on June 3. A true five-tool player, Puig’s ability to hit for power and average is complemented by his excellent speed on the base paths, tremendous range in the outfield, and rocket-throwing arm. Yet to show any signs of slowing down, the sweet-swinging rookie has maintained an astonishing .474 batting average through June 19 while collecting five home runs and 11 RBI.
While most buzz about young talent is usually reserved for the latter stages of the season when promising minor league players are called up in September, 2013 has already seen a handful of rookies having huge impacts on their teams before the season has even reached its midway point. Below are some of the other top rookie performers thus far.
(SP) Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
Besides being an earlier front-runner for Rookie of the Year, Miller has the look of a legitimate Cy Young candidate through 14 starts, notching eight wins while maintaining an incredible 2.08 ERA, good for fifth in all of Major League Baseball. The 22-year-old has struck out 96 batters in 86.1 innings of work, with his best start coming on May 10 when the right-hander punched out 13 batters en route to a complete-game, one-hit shutout of the Colorado Rockies.
(SP) Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Though the arrival of Puig has stolen many of the L.A. headlines lately, this 26-year-old rookie from South Korea has quietly been magnificent since the season began in April. Through 14 starts, he has posted a 2.96 ERA and recorded six wins, including a complete-game, two-hit shutout of the Los Angeles Angels on May 28.
(SS) Didi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks
Gregorius started his career in Arizona with a 10-game hitting streak that saw the young shortstop hit at a .436 clip with three home runs. While the 23-year-old has cooled since his scorching-hot start, the rookie is still hitting .289 on a Diamondbacks team that is in first place in the loaded NL West.
(3B) Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
After brief stints in late April and early May, Rendon was called up again in early June to take over at second base for the injured Danny Espinosa—a Rookie of the Year candidate himself in 2011. Since being called up on June 4, the 23-year-old has filled in admirably, hitting .354 with a memorable game-winning home run against the Cleveland Indians on June 15.
(RP) Preston Claiborne, New York Yankees
Though his sample size is small, the production from this 25-year-old right-hander has been big. In 17 appearances, Claiborne has surrendered only four runs over 23.1 innings, good for a 1.69 ERA. In a bullpen whose most valuable player is 43-year-old Mariano Rivera—the oldest player in the MLB—the young Claiborne is establishing himself as a top-notch second option.