By Ryan Carey
If you were one of the lucky owners out there who targeted Jose Abreu in drafts and passed on the top-ranked options at first base this year, you have to be feeling pretty good as April comes to a close. The hulking Cuban slugger has been better than advertised and should walk away with the Player of the Month award, thanks to his league-leading 10 home runs and 32 RBI, which are both new major league records.
We can see Jose doing well
Ironically, he should edge out a resurgent Albert Pujols, the previous owner of both records that Abreu just smashed. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman shared the previous record of nine April dingers with Kent Hrbek and Carlos Delgado as well as having set the old standard for April RBI at 27. At this early stage, it is pretty safe to say that the $68 million dollar contract (a record for a non-Japanese international signing) is looking like the biggest bargain of the offseason.
We here at Mastersball were pretty bullish on Abreu this preseason, but even with one of the more optimistic projections that I saw out there, we were still factoring in considerable risk that left Abreu on the outside of the top 10 at his position. When I highlighted him as a breakout target way back in January, in my first baseball article of the year, I referenced the wide range of outcomes that were possible and the difficulty the fantasy community was having projecting him. My advice at the time was to pay for a .285/80/28/85 line and then hope he hit the ground running, since he could then absolutely blow past those power numbers. Now, he looks like he could hit 28 by the All-Star break.
I have a couple of shares in him this year, and certainly wish I owned him in more places than I do. The average "price" I paid for him in the leagues I own him was an ADP of 92, and on average he was the 12th first baseman drafted where I landed him, which clearly is much lower than it would have been if we all owned crystal balls. How many people would draft Anthony Rizzo, Allen Craig or even the now injured Mark Trumbo over him if they were drafting today? At the very least, he should have been selected in the second wave of first base options that also included Pujols, Eric Hosmer and Adrian Gonzalez.
The biggest questions remaining for Abreu owners is whether or not he can keep this up, and should you just sit back and enjoy the ride or try to cash in while his stock is sky high. First off, the power is real and it isn't going anywhere. He is going to hit home runs, and at times hit them in bunches. While he may not tally double digits in any month the rest of the way, he is one of a handful of players in either league that have a reasonable shot at finishing north of 40 home runs at season's end.
The only blemish in the early going is a strikeout rate that is higher than you would like to see at 22 percent. That is better than Chris Davis territory but lags behind every other player listed above, and it stands as the number to watch going forward. As opposing pitchers start to make adjustments, will the young slugger be able to do likewise? How will he handle his first prolonged slump, which will arrive at some point?
I got a chuckle today when I read a fellow writer's piece, where he uttered the name Chris Shelton while assessing Abreu's value, reminding us all of the former Tiger who dazzled everyone in 2006 with 10 early home runs, only to hit a meager six the rest of the way. While it is a fair enough point to make that April stats are still just that, I think the fantasy community feels much more comfortable that Abreu is here to stay for the rest of the season. The list of players I would trade him for straight up is pretty short, but if I could get a comparable first baseman along with another piece in return, I might be tempted to cash in at least one of my shares seeing as his value may never be higher.
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Mastersball, founded in 1997, is a leader in providing in-depth analysis, research, projections and applications to the advanced fantasy baseball player. A 2010 merger brought the writers of CREATiVESPORTS into the fold, widely known for 15 years of insightful fantasy analysis and commentary.
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