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Jose Dariel Abreu: Easy favorite for AL Rookie of the Year

ZiPS projections and an excellent first impression with Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson have shed some light on what baseball can expect from Abreu.

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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.

"That's a strong man right here. That's a big man. He has a nice smooth, compact approach. He didn't try to do too much with the ball and the ball was flying off his bat. I think he has a nice bright future coming up with him."

If you don't know much about the 26-year-old power hitter, don't worry. You're not alone. His pages at Baseball Referenceand FanGraphs don't offer much more than a basic biography.

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.

Abreu hit .382/.535/.735 with 13 home runs in 42 games during the Cuban Serie Nacional league 2012-13 season. He is the only player to beat out Alfredo Despaigne for a Cuban MVP award in the past four years and the second former Cuban MVP to ever sign in the MLB. -Noah Jarosh via SBNation MLB

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.

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.

"We try to keep in mind that it's Jan. 14 and we still have a ways to go, but just watching Jose go through his work, you saw that professionalism as well as the plus-plus power on display today in only his first couple of rounds of BP. He's a very serious hitter. He's one who goes up there with a plan and has a great deal of ability, and it's going to be fun to see how this plays out over the next couple of years." -White Sox GM Rick Hahn

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.