Yasiel Puig and Tyler Toffoli Share the Secret to Success


Mar 19, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig (66) follows through on a two run home run during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The ‘fascination’ around LA’s two biggest prospects is a lot simpler than the two’s talents. The Lakers might be included too if they ever had a draft pick of consequence. But Yasiel Puig and Tyler Toffoli have the right part of the equation to catch our attention, and keep it.

Yasiel Puig has been the most dominant player not just at Camelback Ranch, but he is the buzz of the whole Grapefruit League. Puig is a big 22 year old at 6 foot 3, 215 lbs. Puig is bating .521 through the 6th inning on Wednesday, including a 4-4 outing on Tuesday with a monster homerun and a triple. I am not the only one who wants to see the 20 year old Cuban defector in the outfield for the Dodgers as soon as opening day.

Even though the Dodgers paid $42 million over 7 years for the big youngster, it is looking like a steal with the spring training that he is having. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said in an interview with Vin Scully Monday that it should change when he sees actual big league pitching—but there’s no arguing that his numbers and performance have been beyond impressive.

Tyler Toffoli is the 20 year old winger for the Kings who was leading the AHL in scoring when he left Manchester 2 weeks ago. Toffoli has been with the NHL club for 2 weeks, and saw his first NHL time 3 games ago on a line with veterans Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, and really responded well. Against the Coyotes, in his second NHL game, Toffoli notched a goal and an assist.

Before Toffoli saw any ice time, Darryl Sutter addressed a question regarding the “fascination with Tyler Toffoli” head on.

"We have a roster spot while we’re playing 10 games in 14 days, or whatever, and if we need a player [. . .] I don’t know if he’s going to play one minute, or if he’s going to have two practices. I couldn’t tell you that. [. . .] So the ‘fascination’ – there is no fascination. He’s 20 years old. He’s got lots to learn."

Sutter realize why there is this fascination with Tyler Toffoli? It’s the same reason that there is so much interest in Puig. They have the size, talent, and numbers, but the essential part of the package that they have to make them crowd favorites is their name. They just sound good.

Mar 18, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli (73) is congratulated by mascot Bailey after the game against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Staples Center. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The alliterative name Tyler Toffoli (Tough-fo-lee) just roles off the tongue. Fans who aren’t in the know yearn to learn more about the mysterious Toffoli, and fans in the know want to shout it as he roofs a shot past Mike Smith. Yasiel Puig (Yah-see-el Poo-ee-gh) is such an unusual name it begs attention even before you learn anything else about the Cuban defector. The “Y” to begin “Yasiel” is so unusual, but stems from Russian presence in Cuba. But all the soft sounds in his name combine for a catchy, fun name to say. The soft sounds of “Yas,” and a soft “p” and “g,” make me as curious about this mysterious figure as I enjoy trying to pronounce it.

Having a memorable name is as important part of being a superstar in this city as Championship-winning skills. Kobe and Shaq did not become LA icons by being named Matt or Rob. Two crowd favorite Kings have the coolest and most appropriate names—Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick. Luis Cruuuuuuzzzzz is super fun to yell. Kemp and Ethier are both identifiable enough names to have success. Adrian Gonazales is really good at baseball, but always lacks the national and local star power because his name lacks the same cache. Chris Paul, as a name, is about as unexciting as it gets. But CP3 is catchy enough to cement Paul has the elite point guard he is.

Having great skills helps, but having an identifiable name is a must. If Yasiel Puig and Tyler Toffoli continue with their development, their names will be on the tip of tongues in LA for a long time to come—they’ve got that name recognition.