As an advanced power hitter in a homer haven like Cellular Field, White Sox first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu looks like an easy favorite for writers when it comes time to make predictions for AL Rookie of the Year.
Recently, Abreu made a "strong impression" on some of his new teammates and White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson at a team minicamp for some of the club's prospects and new acquisitions.
It's not that the two best baseball-related reference points on the internet are dragging their feet on Abreu research. It's simply that the information is hard to come by. For example, perhaps the most notable story written about Abreu to date is titled "The Best Hitter You've Never Heard Of". Not to mention the fact that several of the most important people in the White Sox front office had never seen him play when the team signed him to a record six-year, $68 million deal in October.
They relied heavily on video, scouting reports, and his numbers from Cuba -- which are, well ... astonishing.
So, Serie Nacional numbers and subsequent translations are all most people have had to go on for quite a while -- and those numbers, while they certainly have merit on their own, have drawn some skepticism when used as guidelines for his MLB production. However, projection systems, like ZiPS, have scaled them into something we can handle.
Don't tell the people asleep, but Abreu's at 273/364/494, OPS+ 129, 2.3 WAR, 26 HR. HR heavy profile good fit for the Cell.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 14, 2014
When it comes to Rookie of the Year votes, Abreu is likely to lead the pack if he hits like that. He'll also have the added advantage of starting the season in the majors, giving the folks in the baseball world responsible for such things an entire season of data to work with -- and perhaps swaying a few traditionalists with solid counting stats like home runs and runs batted in.
Even if Masahiro Tanaka ends up in the American League -- he's likely to start the season in the majors as well -- it might be hard for him to take home the honors if Abreu can perform close to those projections. In 2012, Yu Darvish finished third behind Mike Trout (obviously) and Abreu's former Cuban National squad teammate Yoenis Cespedes. Darvish was widely considered to be a better pro prospect than Tanaka is now, and he was unable to best Cespedes' performance (.292/.356/.505) -- which mirrors Abreu's projected numbers almost exactly.
The White Sox are trying to contain themselves.
Abreu plans to return on Feb. 3 to the team's facility in Glendale, Ariz. when they begin preparation for spring training. If he continues to display plus-plus power and a well-refined approach in the batter's box, the Sox are likely to fall even more in love with their new first baseman.
It can be hard to know exactly what to expect from Cuban signings due to spotty record keeping, differing opinions between scouts and stat nerds, and the covertness of their homeland in general.
But considering the fact that Tanaka could command up to $140 million, Abreu is beginning to look like $68 million very well spent.
And just imagine what he could have gotten if he was born in the Japan.