Previous Cuban defector profiles can be found here.
No point in burying the lede, let’s get right to the statistics.
José Dariel Abreu Stats
|Age||PA||AVG||OBP||SLG||ISO||BB%||K%||dt AVG||dt OBP||dt SLG|
Notes: dt-prefixes indicate Clay Davenport’s translations. The 2013 season was split into a first half, in which every team played, and a second in which 8 qualifying teams advanced.
Over the last four years, Abreu has hit nearly .400 in la Serie Nacional with a .400 ISO. There’s really not much else to add to that. His numbers simply dwarf the better players that have defected recently. Here are his age 23-25 regular season stats, compared to three years worth of data for other recent defectors from la Serie Nacional, ages and sample sizes as close as possible.
The birthdate I have seen for Jose Dariel Abreu is January 29th, 1987. This would mean that he started in la Serie Nacional, whose season typically runs from November through May, when he was sixteen years old. This isn’t too much of a red flag, as Aledmis Diaz appears to have done the same thing. Dayan Viciedo, if his age is to be believed, played most of his first season in the National Series at fifteen! While it’s possible that Abreu is fudging by a year or two, I have yet to hear any rumblings to that effect. Abreu is friends with Orioles outfielder Henry Urrutia, who claims they are the same age. Here’s hoping he’s telling the truth, as I would love to see Abreu on a major league field as soon as possible, and would hate for that to be delayed by an investigation into his age.
As far as I can tell, Abreu has been strictly a 1B/DH since the 09/10 season, when he played some third base and center field. From what little I have seen of Cuban baseball, corner outfielders there are not exactly stellar defenders, so Abreu not spending any time away from first likely speaks to his ability. He’s 6’3″ tall and 250 pounds at this point, and given what scouts say about his athleticism, I think it’s safe to say that the ship has sailed on him playing elsewhere at this point.
The Case Against Jose Abreu
This is necessarily a difficult case. His numbers are ridiculous, but keep in mind that the Cuban league is very hitter-friendly. Clay’s translations are kind, regardless, but translations even for the minor leagues are a mess. This applies doubly to the vastly different environment in Cuba, where so few players have come over, and exactly zero Americans have made the trip in the other direction. My guess is that if you took the very best hitters in MLB and made them play in Cuba, they would put up very similar numbers to Abreu. That is a different argument from saying that Abreu will put up similar numbers to someone like Miguel Cabrera in the big leagues. Clearly Abreu can hit Cuban pitching as well as anyone, but translating that to the bigs could be a different story. Some scouts are skeptical of the toe-tap in his swing as well as his bat speed. He’s clearly not the on the level of Cespedes or Puig in terms of his overall athleticism. If you want to nitpick the numbers, you could say that in the second half of the 2013, which included only the best 8 teams in la Serie Nacional, his numbers weren’t quite as good as his overall performance (.305/.414/.492). I don’t really buy that argument, however. The Cuban season is short as it is (~95 games), and limiting the sample to half a Cuban season is dwindling the available data to the point of irrelevancy (152 PA’s in this case).
I mentioned yesterday that I would set the over/under at $90 million as a total value for Jose Dariel Abreu’s contract. That seems to be a bit higher than than some commentators have suggested; This ESPN story mentions $50 million, for example. I have a hard time squaring that with the fact that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez got nearly $50 million guaranteed, despite most seeing his upside as a mid-rotation starter. When you consider the fact that there just aren’t going to be any elite, young players hitting the market any time soon, as well as the success of Puig, Cespedes, and Chapman, I would be shocked if Abreu doesn’t dwarf MAG’s offer. Abreu is unlikely to be granted free agency until early 2014, as he has to establish residency in another country and receive approval from the treasury department first.
Potential Cubs Fit
As I have said in the past, I don’t see Anthony Rizzo moving to the outfield. The fairly simple reason is that he hasn’t done it, despite the Padres and Cubs having plenty of reasons to give it a shot. Prospects with Rizzo’s batting potential tend to get chances at other places on the field even just as fliers, yet as far as I can tell, Rizzo has never played a professional game at any other defensive position. If the Cubs do decide that Jose Abreu’s bat is too good to pass up, I would expect Rizzo to be shopped. His contract is reasonable, and could potentially net the Cubs a valuable piece in return, but this would be a significant gamble by the front office. Add in the fact that rich teams like the Rangers and Red Sox clearly have the need, and my guess is that the Cubs are a real longshot.