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2017 Player Profiles: Jose Abreu

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A big disappointment in 2016, can the powerful Cuban return to form in 2017?

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians

If you want to catch up on all the previous 2017 player profiles, check out my archive here.

Today’s subject had a very underwhelming 2016 season, letting down many fantasy owners. After putting up all-star numbers in his first two seasons in MLB in 2014 and 2015, Abreu took a big step back in 2016. Just take a look at his stat lines:

Season PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG
2014 622 36 80 107 3 8.20% 21.10% 0.264 0.356 0.317 0.383 0.581
2015 668 30 88 101 0 5.80% 21.00% 0.212 0.333 0.29 0.347 0.502
2016 695 25 67 100 0 6.80% 18.00% 0.175 0.327 0.293 0.353 0.468

Besides a big drop in runs due to a poor lineup around him (which isn’t getting any better with the White Sox fire sale this offseason), his missing power was the biggest issue. His batting average, OBP, RBI, walk rate, and BABIP remained almost unchanged from 2015. Only his ISO, slugging, and home runs took a hit. So, is his power really in decline now, or was this just a fluke?

His Hard% fell for the third straight year (36.4%, 34.2%, 32.7%), and ended up 90th highest out of 146 qualified hitters, so not great. His 36% Pull% was also a career low, further damaging his power output. Ditto for his 14.8% HR/FB%, way behind his marks of 26.9%!!!! and 19.7% in previous years.

His IFFB% (infield fly ball %) was a career-high 11.2% in 2016. That’s not helping, either. Turning to Statcast data, his average fly ball and line drive exit velocity fell from 94.5 mph in 2015 (a top 60 mark) to a mediocre, middle-of-the-pack 92.9 mph (the leaders were 96+) in 2016.

Everything seems to be pointing to the same conclusion. His barrelled balls per batted ball event in 2016 was just average and his average hit distance of 216 feet was well below league average (hurt by all those infield flies, no doubt). So, what do we have? We have a soon-to-be 30-year-old slugger whose power clearly took a hit in 2016 and it wasn’t a fluke. Could he gain some of that back? Sure. But, he isn’t getting younger and there aren’t any encouraging signs in his stats to indicate a power turn-around.

His batting average should be rock solid, given he just put up a career-high contact rate and actually increased his average over 2015, despite a dip in BABIP. His runs and RBI will be hurt by losing Adam Eaton, and possibly, Todd Frazier this offseason. Overall, that means it is time to start valuing him as a middle-of-the-pack first baseman and not an elite option. He should be drafted behind Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera, Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Freddie Freeman, Hanley Ramirez, and Wil Myers at the position. That’s a big drop for a guy that was a second or third rounder last year.

Abreu’s current NFBC ADP is 62, which would put him in the sixth round in most leagues. That’s ahead of Chris Davis and HanRam, which I disagree with. I think the 8th or 9th round is the right value for him, just ahead of Pujols, Carlos Santana, and Hosmer (yuck).

2017 Projection

26 HR, 85 RBI, 81 R, 0 SB 0.296/0.355/0.475

That’s a dip in value from 2016, but not much. I think I’ve explained why I arrived at these numbers enough by now, so I’ll just end here. Under 600 words! That’s got to be a record for me! Tschus!