White Sox: Jose Abreu Still Among the Elite Fantasy 1B?

Jose Abreu had a relatively down season fo the White Sox in 2016. Should fantasy owners still consider him amongst the elite this season?

The White Sox have already made major moves this offseason in an effort to start their rebuilding efforts. But, Jose Abreu is still one of the last remaining pillars of talent that the club held onto. After what many will deem a “down” 2016 for Abreu, should fantasy owners be confident in drafting him as an elite fantasy first basemen this spring?

Jose Abreu came over from Cuba in 2014 as a polished product. After years of excelling in the Cuban National Series, many in MLB knew that he would have some level of success in the majors. While hopes were high when Abreu was signed, he has surpassed those expectations. He finished the 2016 season with a .293/25 HR/100 RBI/.820 OPS line, his third straight season with at least a .290/25 HR/100 RBI line.

Coming into the season, Abreu was drafted as a stud first basemen who many figured would remain a run producer all season for the White Sox. For the most part, he still performed for fantasy owners, but a horrid start to the season had many owners panicked. Abreu came out of the gates ice-cold. In April and May, he could not muster more than a .252/3 HR/14 RBI line per month.

He was clearly struggling at the plate, his K rate was up, and the power was non-existent. He did battle foot and leg issues early in the season, so there may have been a correlation between the two. But, once the month of June rolled around, Abreu came alive. For the rest of the season, Abreu would not post lower than a .289 AVG in any month. He did have a weird July where he did not homer and only drove in eight RBI, but he posted seven doubles and 28 hits in the month.

Jose Abreu was a man on a mission over the last two months of the season especially. He had 14 HR/44 RBI over the home stretch of the season, and for those owners who may have felt they needed more out of him, he was a monster during the fantasy playoffs. These were the stretches that fantasy owners banked on when selecting him. But, are there more of these stretches left in him in the future, or is it time to worry?

The short answer is, no. Looking at Abreu’s batted ball data, there is nothing that should lead owners to expect a huge drop off. The AVG will be there once again, he had a career-low .327 BABIP but was able to post a .293 AVG nonetheless. He also dropped his K rate to a career-low 18% as well.

In 2016 he was able to notch 21% LD, 46% GB, 33% FB, 47% Med, and 33% Hard contact rates. These ratios were all in line with the seasons prior. The only clear drop was the drop in his HR/FB rate, 15%, which clearly tanked his attempt at another 30 HR campaign. But his FB rate in 2016 was a career high, and his 21% LD and 47% Med were right on-line with what he did in 2015. So the sudden drop does not seem to be a glaring indicator of regression.

In terms of his raw power, it does not seem to have gone anywhere. While he did have five fewer homers in 2016, he averaged 408 ft. per homer in 2016, a near 10 ft. increase from 2015. He clearly did not get cheated on his homers, and he also ranked in the top-five of all of MLB with an average 315 ft. per flyball. His GB rate has always been too high, but owners should not feel as though that his power is vanishing.

The only real clear detractor to his fantasy value next season is his supporting cast. As it stands right now, Abreu would have a combo of Tim Anderson, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier and maybe Charlie Tilson around him in the order. Clearly not murderer’s row, and a real threat at hindering Abreu from notching another 100 RBI season. The best case scenario is that Anderson and Cabrera can from some sort of table setting tandem ahead of him in the order, but the limitations are obvious.

In terms of his fantasy value next season, Abreu’s value does take a hit. Owners should adjust their projections to around a .290/30 HR/85 RBI type of season. While it is not the top-five level of first base projection from years past, he is still entrenched as an elite option due to his rock steady floor.