The biggest free agent signing for the Chicago White Sox this offseason was Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu. Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract, is expected to be a power-hitting first baseman for the White Sox and a building block for not only the present, but the future as well. In fact, it is even thought that Abreu could turn out to be the next star to come out of Cuba, joining Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman as the standard for young Cuban players.
Feb 22, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) poses for a photo during photo day at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
For all of the hype around Abreu, the fact remains that he is still an unknown property. Despite the video game numbers that Abreu put together in the Cuban League, including setting the home run record for the league, it is difficult to equate that to Major League success. Yet, that does not mean that people will not try. Clay Davenport has attempted to translate Abreu’s 2013 numbers, a .322/.527/.735 batting line with 13 home runs and 37 walks in 136 at bats, to their big league equivalents. According to his projections, Abreu would have produced a .298/.393/.576 slash rate, with an OPS second only to Chris Davis amongst major league first basemen.
Is it fair to expect such lofty numbers from Jose Abreu over a full Major League season? Most projections appear to be fairly bullish on Abreu this season, expecting him to hit around 30 home runs and put together a solid season. Combining the projections, the median would have Abreu putting together a .274/.350/.505 batting line with 30 homers. That projected .855 OPS would have been good enough for ninth amongst qualified first basemen in the majors last year, outpacing players such as Mike Napoli and Prince Fielder.
If Abreu is able to live up to such lofty expectations and those projections, the the White Sox will have a true star in their midst, a worthy replacement for Paul Konerko. Even if he struggles at the beginning of the season, Abreu is likely to put together a much better year than the .251/.341/.410 batting line that White Sox first basemen posted last year.
Right now, Jose Abreu may be the clear cut favorite to be the American League Rookie of the Year. If he produces as he is projected to, Abreu will end up being far more than that.