Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu has been so impressive playing for the Cuban National Team that when he officially declared a MLB free agent every team in baseball sent someone to see him in his various showcases. These were teams that had obvious needs at first base and/or designated hitter as well as teams that had the positions well filled. The obviously strong interest was fueled even further by teams in need of a power bat that could not afford to part with a top draft pick to sign free agents who received a qualifying offer.
Despite all the interest the scouting reports on Abreu have skewed a bit negative. Most of them seem to focus on the report from Baseball America which states that Abreu seemed to struggle against quality fastballs located on the inner third of the plate. This is a weakness that many major leaguers have and one that does not necessarily destroy his potential as a high average masher. He may certainly struggle against the frontline starters with impeccable control but doesn’t everyone? Many major league starters struggle to consistently locate their fastballs. Abreu could also be coached to take a half step away from the plate.
I think it is helpful to note that several teams were involved in the bidding. Depending on which reports you buy into it is possible that as many as seven teams bid more than 50 million for Abreu. Those teams seem to include organizations such as the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros – organizations that at this point we should have learned to trust when it comes to scouting and player evaluation.
I first heard of Abreu when I saw Clay Davenport’s Cuban Player Translations. Take a look at these stats and I think you will be quite impressed. Clay Davenport of course one of the best analyst in the business and his translations well worth your attention.
What should be emphasized from almost every report is that Abreu despite average bat speed, has advanced hitting skills and tremendous power. I fully expect him to hit for a quality batting average and above average power as he adjusts to the majors. The hype created by previous Cuban imports like Yoanis Cespedes and Yasier Puig not only fed into the free agent frenzy but will also drive up his fantasy cost this coming season. I will be a buyer as long as the price stays reasonable. If he costs the same as other established power hitters I’d rather have one of them then the newbie, wouldn’t you?
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