|Intro||Cuban-born American baseball player|
|A.K.A.||Wild Horse, Yasiel Valdes Puig|
|Is||Athlete Baseball player|
|From||Cuba United States of America|
|Birth||7 December 1990, Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos Province, Cuba|
Yasiel Puig Valdés (/ˈjɑːsiɛl ˈpwiːɡ/ YAH-see-el PWEEG, [ˈpwiɣ]; born December 7, 1990), nicknamed The Wild Horse, is a Cuban-born American professional baseball right fielder who is currently a free agent. He has played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, and Cleveland Indians. His nickname is "The Wild Horse", given to him by former longtime Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. Puig is the all-time leader in postseason appearances for the Dodgers with 58.
Puig previously played for the Cuba national baseball team in the 2008 World Junior Baseball Championship, winning a bronze medal. He defected from Cuba in 2012, and signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers. He made his MLB debut on June 3, 2013. In 2013, Puig hit .319 in 104 games with 19 home runs, and was selected by Baseball America to their annual "All-Rookie team". The Dodgers traded Puig to the Reds before the 2019 season, and the Reds traded Puig to the Indians at the 2019 trade deadline.
Puig was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, the elder of two children of Omar and Maritza Puig. He has a sister, Yaima Puig. His father was an engineer in a sugar cane factory. He began playing baseball at the age of 9.
Puig played for the Cuban national baseball team in the 2008 World Junior Baseball Championship, winning a bronze medal. He then played for the Cienfuegos team of the Cuban National Series in the 2008–09 Cuban National Series. He batted .276 with five home runs in his debut season. Puig enjoyed a breakout season in the 2009–10 Cuban National Series, with a .330 batting average, 17 home runs, 47 runs batted in (RBIs), and 78 runs scored in 327 at-bats. Puig also played for the Cuban national team in the 2011 World Port Tournament, where he tried to defect along with teammate Gerardo Concepción. Concepción was successful while Puig was not, and he was disciplined by not being allowed to play during the 2011–12 seasons.
Defection from Cuba to Mexico
Starting in 2009, Puig tried to defect to Mexico 13 times, in order to become a legal resident so he could become eligible to sign a contract in Major League Baseball. The first time, the police pulled over Puig's car. The second time, the boat failed to arrive. The third time, police raided their safe house and detained them for six days. On the fourth try, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant intercepted their boat near Haiti. The fifth time, he was successfully taken to Mexico by Los Zetas, a murderous Mexican drug cartel involved in cocaine and smuggling. Yunior Despaigne, a boxer who was formerly on the Cuban national team and had known Puig for years through youth sports academies, said:
"I don't know if you could call it a kidnapping, because we had gone there voluntarily, but we also weren't free to leave. If they didn't receive the money, they were saying that at any moment they might give him a machetazo" — a whack with a machete — "chop off an arm, a finger, whatever, and he would never play baseball again, not for anyone."
Floridian Raul Pacheco, the 29-year-old president of Miami-based T&P Metal and PY Recycling, allegedly paid smugglers $250,000 to get Puig out of Cuba. In exchange, Pacheco would receive 20% of Puig's future earnings after he signed an MLB contract. Pacheco had previously been arrested in 2009 for attempted burglary and in 2010 for using a fake Bank of America credit card to buy $150,000 worth of beer and having in his possession four other fraudulent credit cards and a fake ID card. He was sentenced to two years’ probation. Puig had also been offered to Los Angeles-based agent Gus Dominguez, starting at $175,000, and New York-based agent Joe Kehoskie, starting at $250,000. "Nobody's going to Cuba and bringing out a guy like Yasiel Puig," Kehoskie said, "and just handing him over to an agent out of the goodness of their heart."
A month later, the captain of the smuggling boat, Yandrys León, was found dead in Cancún. León was called "one of the most important capos of the Cuban-American mafia" by the United Press International. Cuban boxer Miguel Angel Corbacho Daudinot was sentenced to seven years in prison after Puig allegedly testified against him to the Cuban authorities. In 2013, Corbacho Daudinot's lawyers filed a federal lawsuit against Puig in Miami, claiming that Puig delivered false testimony that led to Corbacho Daudinot's imprisonment under "inhumane" conditions, and in so doing violated the Torture Victim Protection Act; the suit seeks $12 million in damages.
According to court records, Puig has paid Pacheco over $1.3 million. He also paid $400,000 to $500,000 to Alberto Fariñas, the 49-year-old vice president of Pacheco's T&P Metal company, and $600,000 to Marcos González, a Miami lawyer. He also paid an undisclosed amount to Gilberto Suarez, founder of a start-up company called Miami Sport Management.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Puig on June 28, 2012, to a seven-year deal worth $42 million. Eddie Oropesa and Tim Bravo, a special-education teacher from Las Cruces High School in New Mexico, helped the newly arrived Puig adjust to life in the United States during his first year. The Dodgers placed him on the 40-man roster and assigned him to their Arizona Rookie League team. In nine games, he hit .400 with four homers and 11 RBI.
On August 13, 2012, the Dodgers promoted Puig to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the Class A-Advanced California League. He played in 14 games with the Quakes and hit .327. After the Quakes season, he was scheduled to join the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League, but a staph infection in his right elbow required surgery and sidelined him for several months. After the infection healed, he opted to play winter ball in Puerto Rico to keep his development on schedule.
Puig had a very strong spring training with the Dodgers in 2013, hitting .526 in Cactus League games and having some in the press speculate that he might break camp with the Dodgers. However, he was optioned to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Class AA Southern League just before the end of spring training. He hit .313 with 8 home runs and 37 RBI for the Lookouts in 40 games.
Los Angeles Dodgers
On June 2, 2013, the Dodgers announced that they had recalled Puig from Chattanooga, and he made his debut on June 3. In his first career at-bat, he singled to left-center off Eric Stults of the San Diego Padres. He was 2-for-4 in the game, and showcased his strong arm by recording an outfield assist on a double play to end the game.
Puig hit two home runs, doubled, and drove in five runs in his second game. He became the first Dodger ever to have a multi-homer game in one of his first two appearances. The first home run was off Padres pitcher Clayton Richard. In his fourth game, on June 6, 2013, he hit a grand slam off of Cory Gearrin of the Atlanta Braves. The following day, Puig hit another homer to become only the 2nd player in the modern era (Mike Jacobs in 2005 was the other) to hit four home runs in his first five games, and his 10 RBIs tied the Major League record for most RBIs in the first five games of a career (with Danny Espinosa (2010) and Jack Merson (1951)). Puig was named the National League Player of the Week for the week of June 3–9.
Puig had 27 hits in his first 15 games, tied with Joe DiMaggio (1936) and Terry Pendleton (1984) for second-most all-time behind Irv Waldron (1901) and Bo Hart (2003) with 28. He also became the first player in major league history to record at least 34 hits and seven home runs in his first 20 games and set Dodger records for most hits through 20 games (one more than Gibby Brack in 1937) and total bases through 20 games (58, four more than Del Bissonette in 1928). Puig finished the month of June with 44 hits, breaking Steve Sax's 1983 team record for most hits by a rookie in one month. That total was also second all-time for rookies in their first month, behind only DiMaggio who had 48. In 26 games in June, Puig hit .436 with a .467 on-base percentage and a .713 slugging percentage. He won both the National League Rookie of the Month Award and the National League Player of the Month Award, the first time someone had won both in their first month in the Majors.
Despite his not making his debut until June, Puig received 842,915 write-in votes from the fans for the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. His name was included among the All-Star Final Vote candidates. Puig received 15.5 million votes, second to Atlanta Braves' first baseman Freddie Freeman who received 19.7 million.
In 2013, Puig hit .319 in 104 games with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs. He was selected by Baseball America to their annual "All-Rookie team" and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting to fellow Cuban José Fernández.
On May 17, 2014, Puig had his eighth consecutive game with at least one extra-base hit and at least one RBI, which was a new record for the longest streak by a Dodger, surpassing the marks of Pedro Guerrero (1985), Duke Snider (1954), and Howie Schultz (1944). He was selected as the NL Player of the Week for that week and the National League Player of the Month for May after he hit .398 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. Puig was voted and named a starter for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the youngest Dodger starter for an All-Star game since Steve Sax in 1982. Puig also accepted an invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star festivities.
On July 25, 2014, Puig went 4-for-5 with a career-high four extra-base hits, tying the Dodgers' single-game record with three triples, matching Jimmy Sheckard. Puig's teammates Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon each recorded one triple as well, tying the club's single-game triples record of five, set in 1902 and 1921.
Puig finished the 2014 regular season with 16 home runs and 69 RBI, and a .296 batting average. In the 2014 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Puig struck out seven times in a row over the first three games of the series. He then hit a triple and scored the Dodgers' only run in a 3–1 loss.
Puig was selected to travel to Japan after the season with a team of MLB All-Stars playing against All-Stars of Nippon Professional Baseball in the 2014 Major League Baseball Japan All-Star Series.
Puig began the 2015 season experiencing left hamstring issues that caused him to miss several games. On April 26, Puig was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his major league career, due to his nagging left hamstring. He rejoined the Dodgers roster on June 6. On August 18, Puig injured his right hamstring, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list nine days later. He returned on October 3, appearing in the final two games of the season. He played in a total of 79 regular-season games. He batted .255/.322/.436, and he had 11 home runs, 38 RBIs, and 3 stolen bases – all career lows.
In the 2016 season, Puig was again hampered by hamstring issues which reduced his playing time and production. He hit .260 with seven home runs in 81 games through the end of July. On August 2, he was optioned to the AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers when the Dodgers acquired Josh Reddick in a trade to take over the right field position. ESPN reported that Puig was told by the team on Monday, August 1, the day of the trade deadline not to join the Dodgers on the road since he would either be traded or demoted. He rejoined the team in September and hit .263/.323/.416 on the season in 104 games with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs. He batted .211 (4-for-19) with a run scored in 10 postseason games.
On June 13, 2017. Puig made an obscene gesture at Cleveland Indians fans at Progressive Field after hitting a home run. The next day, he was suspended for a game, but he appealed the suspension and it was rescinded. He instead was allowed to make a charitable donation. For the season, he batted .263/.346/.487 with 28 home runs (a career high) and 74 RBI, as well as 15 stolen bases. He received the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award for his play in right field. He had a strong start to the post-season, hitting .455 in the 2017 NLDS and .389 with a home run in the 2017 NLCS. In the 2017 World Series, he had only four hits in 27 at-bats (.148 average) as the Dodgers lost the series in seven games to the Houston Astros. Two of his four hits were home runs.
On February 7, 2018 Wasserman Media Group announced that it had "terminated its professional relationship" with Puig. He was without representation until April 2018, when he signed with Beverly Hills Sports Council. On April 28, Puig left a game due to left hip soreness. The injury occurred while he was making a catch against the outfield wall. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list the next day. On August 11, Puig hit his 100th career home run off Kyle Freeland of the Colorado Rockies. On August 14, Puig got into an altercation with Nick Hundley at home plate. He shoved Hundley, causing a bench-clearing brawl. Both Hundley and Puig were ejected. He had the lowest fielding percentage among major league right fielders, at .958.
On December 21, 2018, the Dodgers traded Puig to the Cincinnati Reds, along with Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, and cash considerations in exchange for Homer Bailey, Jeter Downs, and Josiah Gray. Puig was involved in bench-clearing brawls in each of two Reds losses to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first one in the top of the fourth inning of a 7–5 defeat at PNC Park on April 7, 2019 resulted in an ejection and a two-game suspension for extending hostilities. He reenacted his actions just under four months later on July 30 in the top of the ninth of an 11–4 loss at Great American Ball Park, minutes after news broke that he was going to be traded to the Cleveland Indians.
The three-team transaction sending Puig to the Indians became official the following day on July 31, 2019. The Reds acquired Trevor Bauer from Cleveland, the Indians acquired Scott Moss from Cincinnati and Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen, and Victor Nova from San Diego, and the Padres acquired Taylor Trammell. On August 1, 2019, Puig was suspended for three games due to his role in a brawl during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates while playing for the Reds. He did not appeal the suspension, which he served starting on August 12, 2019, against the Boston Red Sox.
Puig created the Wild Horse Children's Foundation in 2016. The foundation's name embraces the nickname Vin Scully gave him as a rookie. According to its website, the foundation aims to inspire children and families in underserved communities by promoting healthier and better-quality lives through education, sports, community development, and health and wellness programs.
On April 19, 2018, Puig and the Wild Horse Children's Foundation announced a collaboration with the City of San Fernando, California to renovate Pioneer Park, as well as refurbish a dilapidated house on-site that had been boarded up for nearly 10 years.
At a game in New York City in May 2019, Puig met a young fan about to have his 40th surgery, due to hydrocephalus. The following month, Puig treated the fan and his family to a Reds game in Cincinnati.
In April 2013, Puig was charged with reckless driving and speeding in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was caught driving 97 mph (156 km/h) in a 50 mph (80 km/h) zone. The charges were dismissed after he served 12 hours of community service. On December 28, 2013, Puig was again arrested for reckless driving after allegedly driving 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) in a 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) zone, in Naples, Florida. He was taken to the Collier County Jail and released after posting bail. The State of Florida elected to drop the reckless driving charge on January 28, 2014, after concluding that there was insufficient evidence to support it.
On February 2, 2017, Puig announced the birth of his son, Daniel Sebastian, on Twitter and Instagram. Puig has two other sons: Diego Alejandro, who was born in December 2013, and Damian Yair, born January 2018.
On August 14, 2019, Puig became a United States citizen.
In popular culture
Puig Destroyer, a baseball-themed grindcore band, is named after Puig.