Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball is a very difficult game. When you fail 70% of the time in baseball you are considered a very good hitter. Hitters who can hit for a good average with considerable power are considered coveted commodities by every major league team.
In recent years, an influx of baseball talent has made the game look very easy. These players hail from the small and disenfranchised island of Cuba.
The best hitter from Cuba, Jose Abreu, has arrived on the south side of Chicago and he is poised to be the talk of baseball well into the summer. He signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the Chicago White Sox three months after defecting from Cuba. His contract dwarfs the $42 million that Puig received from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Chicago White Sox are no strangers to Cuban born players. They already have Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on their roster. It was probably a big reason why Abreu signed with the White Sox. He has fellow countrymen to help him adjust to life at the major league level.
His at-bats are much more than just a powerful swing filled with holes for pitchers to exploit. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic against very good pitching, Abreu hit .360 with three home runs and nine RBI’s in six games. He’s an all around hitter with power to all fields and the patience to draw walks.
There aren’t a lot of statistics to analyze. It’s difficult to compare statistics from a league in Cuba and make an analysis of how it will translate to major league baseball.
As a guide, he hit .453 with 33 home runs and 93 RBI in 66 games in the 2010-2011 season. He hit over .340 in his past five seasons in Cuba. Yes, this sounds like the White Sox just signed a Cuban version of Barry Bonds or Miguel Cabrera, but a lot remains to be seen how he adjusts to his new and much more talented league.
I would think he dominates 4th and 5th starters but when he is really tested by major pitching talent like Justin Verlander, how is he going to react? The big question will be how he adjusts to pitching that is above and beyond what he faced in Cuba.
He is not a secret in fantasy baseball circles. I have seen him being drafted between the 8th and 10th rounds of drafts. If you want to take a shot on him, you are going to have to grab him early at least risk bypassing more proven players.
I think he is well worth a gamble in the Round 8-10 range. He has been the most dominant hitter in a league that produced Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, who have excelled in their roles with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Why would a hitter who is more talented than either one of them not have a chance to succeed at the major league level?
The kind of immediate impact he will have is larger than any prospect currently being touted like Xander Bogaerts, Oscar Taveras and George Springer. His potential can be immense and a great bargain on draft day. Obviously, if he can’t adjust to the speed of the pitchers he faces he could also be a big disappointment.
Abreu is a risk, but a calculated risk. If you like taking those kinds of chances, Jose Abreu is your type of player. He has some question marks and is unproven but I believe drafting him is a risk well worth taking.
For more on Jose Abreu, read Clave Jones’ take.