Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu had his second multi-home run game in three days, helping the Sox down the Minnesota Twins 7-3. Through the first ten games of Abreu’s 2014 season, he’s hitting .300/.383/.725, for a 189 wRC+.
The White Sox signed Abreu, who defected from Cuba in October of 2013, to a six year, $68 million deal this offseason. Abreu, who turned 27 in January, put up big numbers in Cuba, and he went 9-25 with three home runs in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
However, you don’t have to go far to find people who thought that committing $68 million to a bat-only player with no major league track record was a poor idea. Scouts cited limited athleticism and potential vulnerability to good fastballs. Of course, there were also people who thought Abreu would immediately be a top-25 hitter.
Besides the fact that every hitter is vulnerable to a good fastball, Abreu has shown himself to be entirely capable of handling major league pitching in his first ten games. The rest of season projections from ZiPS and Steamer have Abreu finishing with a batting line in the neighborhood of .280/.365/.550, which would make him one of the best ten hitters in baseball.
Of course, there’s a lot more volatility with projecting Abreu than with a player that has had three or four major league seasons, but going off something not as scientific such as the eye test would indicate that Abreu is one of the best 10-20 hitters in the big leagues.
One thing that pitcher’s may start to take advantage of is Abreu’s free-swinging ways. Abreu is swinging at 44 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, which is the fifth highest rate in the major leagues. Swing rates stabilize much quicker than the slash line stats, so it’s probably safe to say that Abreu will start to see a lot fewer pitches in the strike zone.
Regardless, Abreu looks like one of the more exciting hitters in baseball. He won’t maintain a 189 wRC+ over the course of a season, but those projections look attainable. $11 million a year for that kind of production would be a pretty big bargain.