Jose Dariel Abreu Defects from Cuba

Dennis Grombkowski

First, there was Yoenis Cespedes. Then came Yasiel Puig. Is Jose Dariel Abreu the next big thing to come out of Cuba?

Jose Dariel Abreu's location is not the only unknown surrounding the recently defected Cuban first baseman.  Abreu has been one of the best hitters in Cuba for the last four years and is now set on bringing his talents to the U.S.  There are several obstacles that need to be overcome before Abreu can do so and, even when/if he gets here, scouts are divided about his potential to hit big league pitching.  Since Abreu has been playing professionally in Cuba, he will not be subject to the new international signing rules and he will be able to sign as a major league free agent.  Before he is able to do so, Abreu must establish residency in a country other than Cuba (Haiti and the Dominican Republic have been rumored as potential harbors) and Major League Baseball must declare him as a free agent.  In addition, Abreu needs to be cleared to sign by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  The whole process can take several months and any investigation into his age could prolong the process even more.  It seems as though the winter is the most likely timetable for Abreu to sign.

Abreu is alleged to be 26 years old and his close friend and Orioles outfielder, Henry Urrutia, corroborates this information.  At 6'3" and more than 250 pounds, Abreu is stuck at first base or DH but he has plenty of power for those positions.  He has a career isolated power of .280 in la Serie Nacional and has been almost .400 over the last four seasons.  From ages 23-25, Abreu put up better numbers than players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Alexei Ramirez and Yasiel Puig en route to an MVP award and MVP consideration the other two years.  Take a look at the numbers below.

Player

Yrs

Ages

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

ISO

BB%

K%

Jose Abreu

2010-12

23-25

1070

98

0.412

0.562

0.872

0.460

19%

11%

Yoenis Cespedes

2009-11

23-25

1184

79

0.334

0.421

0.629

0.295

11%

11%

Alexei Ramirez

2005-07

23-25

1166

45

0.333

0.419

0.526

0.192

11%

8%

Henry Urrutia

2008-10

21-23

999

29

0.358

0.432

0.537

0.179

10%

11%

Leonys Martin

2008-10

20-22

1040

25

0.345

0.474

0.517

0.172

17%

14%

Kendrys Morales

2002-04

19-21

781

32

0.350

0.434

0.576

0.226

11%

12%

Dayan Viciedo

2006-08

17-19

925

32

0.296

0.389

0.479

0.184

11%

13%

Yasiel Puig

2009,'11

19,21

639

24

0.316

0.412

0.539

0.223

11%

15%

Cuba's la Serie Nacional is generally a hitter-friendly league and some scouts worry that Abreu's numbers are a bit inflated.  Many scouting reports cite concern over Abreu's "double toe tap" in his swing which looks to me like a timing mechanism but it seems to close him off a bit.  Scouts are also concerned that Abreu's average bat speed will cause him to have trouble handling major league velocity, especially on the inner part of the plate.  Abreu showed in international tournaments, including the World Baseball Classic, that he can hit big league breaking balls but he also showed a propensity for chasing good ones out of the zone.  He's a smart hitter with good bat-to-ball skills and the strength to drive the ball to all fields.

Abreu will be entering the market at a very opportunistic time as the impending free agent class is relatively void of impact bats at first base Mike Napoli, Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse as the best of the bunch.  Also, if Abreu is only 26, he will be coming into the league younger than most free agents and is entering his "power prime".  Many have listed the Red Sox and Rangers as the most likely landing spots for Abreu but there are a number of teams that will have interes including the Blue Jays, Mariners, White Sox and Mets.

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