Last year, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu got virtually zero protection. That all changed Wednesday, when the team acquired All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds. While a lot of Abreu’s protection in 2016 will have to do with Frazier’s production (or if they acquire another big bat, it is a far cry from what he has dealt with his first two seasons in Chicago.
In 2014, Abreu was protected by Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, among others. Considering the fact that Dunn and Konerko were both in their final big league season, they didn’t help protect Abreu much (even though he tore up the league).
That season Abreu broke onto the big league scene by winning American League Rookie of the Year, and cementing himself as an elite middle of the order hitter. The reason 2014’s protection was better is quite simple, power hitters behind Abreu. I realize they provided mediocre protection at best, but were the better of the two seasons.
Now 2015 was much tougher on Abreu, for multiple reasons. First of all, Adam LaRoche and Avisail Garcia were hitting behind him in the order. That caused two problems. First, if there was a base open late in a game it became automatic that the opponent would walk Abreu.
With LaRoche hitting behind him, they would bring in a left-hander to face him (LaRoche is horrible vs LHP). Even if there was one out, LaRoche would likely strike out, then Garcia would pop out versus a righty. The White Sox needed to add some solid middle of the order bats behind Abreu. While I think that LaRoche can rebound in 2016, he should not be hitting behind Abreu.
While I realize there was not much of a drop off statistically from 2014 to 2015 for Abreu, he seemed to be chasing a lot more pitches outside of the strike zone. I think the reason for that was two-fold. First, with very little production in the lineup outside of himself, Abreu felt the need to do everything.
Second, pitchers knew they couldn’t let Abreu beat them. Since there really were not any other run producing threats on the White Sox, they tried to retire him outside of the strike zone. The biggest killer of the offense, not necessarily of Abreu, was a lack of power all around (especially from LaRoche and Garcia).
My question is this, what happens if Abreu actually gets legit protection? If Frazier is an All-Star capable bat behind him, could he challenge for an MVP? I thought his first two seasons in the majors were outstanding, even though he didn’t have any real middle of the order bats behind him.
Assuming he continues to make adjustments, not to mention gets better pitches to hit, he could be an MVP candidate. The White Sox are still a solid corner outfielder and number four starter away from being very good. If they add those two players to their roster (whomever they may be), they could make things happen in a very tough American League.