A look at what's been holding the White Sox slugger back, and whether he might soon emerge from his slump.
As of Mike Gianella’s most recent valuation update a couple of weeks ago, Abreu was on pace for merely a $12 AL-only season--good for just 15th among first-base-eligible hitters in the junior circuit. He’s since rebounded with his first sustained hot streak of the season across his last dozen games, dropping a .370/.396/.630 line with three dingers and 18 R+RBI to take some of that early-season sting out of it for mixed leaguers who, on average, bough him 21st overall in mixed NFBC drafts. Still, he remains well below his level of expected production in the macro sense, and we’re deep enough into the season that we need to be asking ourselves with straight faces whether recent hot streaks like Abreu’s are in fact sustainable turn-arounds, or whether they’re temporary beacons among more troubled seas. So let’s dive under the hood and figure out what went wrong early, why it’s not going wrong now, and whether it’s likely to go wrong again over the next three and a half months.
Let’s start with the basics: Abreu’s BABIP is down, sitting at present at a nominally-above-league-average mark of .299 that is well south of the .356 and .333 marks he posted across his first two campaigns. And sure enough, he’s hitting less line drives than he ever has while seeing a boost in his fly ball contact. It hasn’t been better fly ball contact, however, and courtesy of Statcast we can see that he’s hitting the ball with less authority overall this year:
Power is the name of the game at first base, and these two supply it in spades.
After starting off the Tale of the Tape series last week with Jonathan Lucroy edging out Travis d’Arnaud, we move on to a couple of star first basemen. We’re going a little more high-profile than the competition behind the plate, with a couple of top-25 players who are currently going back-to-back according to early ADP data. It’s Edwin Encarnacion vs. Jose Abreu.
Tracking changes in opposing pitchers' approaches to Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, and George Springer.
Recently, Yasiel Puig had his one-year MLB anniversary (Puigiversary?), which caused much uproar and a deluge of odes to his ability, presumably along with a handful of curmudgeonly rants about his bat flips. Despite the seeming overabundance of press attention given to Puig, that attention is well-deserved. In his first full year, he’s become among the best players in baseball.
Almost everything there is to write about Puig’s innate ability and penchant for guffaw-inducing bloopers has already been written, and in any case, I’m already late to the Puigiversary party. I want to focus on another aspect of Puig’s performance, namely the way the league has approached him, with the hope that we can learn something about how pitchers approach young players in general. I’ve written at length about how the manner in which pitchers target hitters can inform us about those hitters. In some cases, we can forecast changes in hitter ability by observing the league’s approach to each hitter and whether it varies over the course of a season.
The book on Abreu said that he'd struggle against inside heat. Has the book been right?
When the White Sox signed Jose Abreu for $68 million over six years, responses ranged from optimism to skepticism about how the Cuban rookie’s swing might fare in the United States. In this year’s Baseball Prospectus Annual, for instance, we wondered whether Abreu possessed a swing that could “be tamed by well-placed fastballs on the inner half.” Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook included another knock: “Some scouts worry about his double toe-tap stride and average bat speed, fearing they will inhibit his ability to catch up with premium velocity on the inner half.”
The young Ray's fine outing, a shutout by Masahiro Tanaka, David Ortiz's yardwork, plus more from Wednesday and previews for Thursday.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Entering last Friday’s start against the Indians, Jake Odorizzi owned a 6.83 ERA and 1.80 WHIP, and had made it out of the fifth inning in just three of his six starts. The Tampa Bay right-hander held the Indians scoreless during that outing and racked up 11 punchouts, but lasted just five innings and promptly watched his bullpen squander the lead. On Wednesday, Odorizzi carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and reminded Rays fans that he was more than just a throw-in that the club got in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade.
Odorizzi’s fastball worked particularly well against the Mariners, as the pitch generated 13 swinging strikes, nearly doubling his previous career high of seven (which came in his last start against Cleveland). After the game he told reporters, “It felt good coming out. The hitters tell you what your stuff is like. They didn't put any hard contact on it, so we kept going to it. Kept bringing it up higher and higher in the zone to see if they kept swinging at it, and a lot of them did.”
Scouts' takes on Jose Abreu, Johnny Cueto, Billy Hamilton, Eddie Butler, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.
The White Sox slugger breaks rookie records, plus other action from this weekend and what to watch today.
The Weekend Takeaway There are 30 days in April—30 days for rookies who earn Opening Day roster spots to challenge the record for home runs hit in a player’s first major-league month. By that standard, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is an overachiever. He needed only 25.
Notes on prospects who stood out in Cactus and Grapefruit League play, including the Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts (good) and Allen Webster (bad).
Xander Bogaerts: 1-3, R, HR. Bogaerts has come on strong of late and will be just fine. Everyone in New England, please just take a deep breath and relax.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K. Martinez’s first outing as a reliever since the news that he would not make the Cardinals rotation did not go well. We can only speculate as to why—though I won’t—but regardless of the reason, it clearly wasn’t his best performance.