Is Jose Dariel Abreu MLB’s next cuban sensation? First it was Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes, then Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig. Soon we won’t be able to count the number of Cuban sensations on one hand, which is a problem because I’m holding a delicious Cubano with my other hand and there isn’t a chance in the world I’m setting that down.
Abreu, the 6’2″, 250 lb, 26-year-old signed with the Chicago White Sox for 6 years and $68 million, which is more than Yasiel Puig’s 7 year $42 million deal. But that’s pretty much where the Puig comparisons stop. Whereas Puig is the kinda guy that would hit on your wife while you are standing there, Abreu is described as a “humble man.” He’s married, has a son, and is described as a quiet professional who works hard.
He’s also what could be described as husky, but the scuttlebutt is that he’s slimmed down a bit in anticipation of his MLB showcase. He’s also been described as being more athletic than he looks, but he still won’t provide a lick of value for fantasy owners in the stolen base department.
If you are thinking you may be getting the picture of the player, then maybe this quote from Grantland’s Jonah Keri will further paint the picture:
Legitimate comparisons to Ryan Howard.
The scouts – although they have precious little access to Cuba – have been…well, scouting. On the 20 to 80 scale they give him a 70 hit tool and 70 power, to which an Edwin Encarnación comp is appropriate. Many scouts also say that he could top 30 MLB home runs right away.
To say that he put up huge numbers in Cuba’s Serie Nacional League would be an understatement. This past season in Cuba he hit .382 with .535 OBP and 13 homers in 42 games. Abreu’s last 3 seasons in Cuba: .393 AVG, .542 OBP, .791 SLG.
Compare those numbers to Cespedes, who in his final two seasons in Cuba had a .331 avg, .420 OBP, .624 SLG. Yasiel Puig had about the same as Cespedes, but defected much younger.
Abreu has hit way, way better in Cuba than any other hitter who has ever defected from Cuba. Using common league to league adjustment calculators, translating Abreu’s Cuban numbers to Double AA numbers yields a .301 AVG, .424 OBP, and.567 SLG. Is that an exact science? No way! But it’s somewhere to start and would make Jose Dariel Abreu one of the top 5 hitters in the game today.
Abreu isn’t known to have great bat speed. Top shelf pitchers will challenge him with hard fastballs on the inside of the plate. Abreu is undeterred by this and hangs in the batter’s box like Shin-Soo Choo, meaning he’ll likely rack up a lot trips to first base after being hit by pitches.
But while Abreu may struggle against hard fastballs due to his bat speed, who doesn’t? Pretty much nobody can hit Max Scherzer. The secret for Abreu is if pitchers are able exploit any other holes in his swing and we simply don’t know that yet.
We’re neck deep in the kitchen sink phase of looking for any sort of a statistical basis for what exactly t0 expect out of Abreu in 2014. (And someone washed a lasagna pan in here. Yuck!) With such a limited sample of Cuban players stepping right into the majors, Abreu will be a high risk/high reward type of pick on draft day. While the recent success of Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Fernandez, and Yasiel Puig has all all salivating, it’s important to remember that Abreu will be his own unique little snowflake, as are we all.
There are lots of ways to react when you don’t have complete data. Acknowledging the gaps is probably best. Other people find it’s easier to make arguments when you conveniently don’t take everything into account.
At best we’re possibly looking at one of the league’s better hitters. Sure, #1 or #2 starters could give him fits, but let’s not forget how mediocre #3-5 pitchers are, or the mediocrity of the entire pitching staff of the Minnesota Twins or Houston Astros.
At worst we’re probably looking at a Pedro Alvarez type, someone with huge power but not someone who could be described even remotely as complete. But there is obviously a lot of draft separation between Edwin Encarnación and Pedro Alvarez, and this is the dilemma that fantasy owners face in 2014 as they wrestle with where to draft Jose Dariel Abreu.