Player-A-Day: Jose Dariel Abreu

Welcome to Player-A-Day. The purpose of this column is to identify interesting major league players who may be fantasy-relevant in 2014. We will discuss the real-world roles the player may fill, set a range of potential expectations, identify any wild-card factors in play, and comment on how this affects the player’s fantasy value.

The high level

It’s all high level today as we take a look at a player for whom we have very little data.

Jose Dariel Abreu is the latest high-profile Cuban to sign with a major league club. Unlike recent Cuban defectors like Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, Abreu is known for his power and polished plate approach rather than his pure athleticism.

The scuttlebutt around the internet is that some scouts are concerned that Abreu will struggle to transition to the major leagues. He’s viewed as a first baseman, although he’s experienced at third base and may be roughly comparable to Miguel Cabrera at the hot corner. Some think Abreu may need to take reps at designated hitter sooner rather than later, although it seems too early to reach that conclusion.

The White Sox have a history of signing successful Cuban players, such as Jose Contreras and Alexei Ramirez. Abreu actually cited those players as a reason he was comfortable selecting the White Sox from several comparable offers. The signing did come as a bit of a surprise since the White Sox may have interest in bringing back Paul Konerko and still have Adam Dunn on the roster.

If both Konerko and Dunn return to the 2014 White Sox, there will be a bit of a roster crunch in the first base and designated hitter mix. It’s still possible that Konerko may retire or Dunn may be traded.

Fantasy implications

Due to questions about his athleticism and swing speed, there is a risk that Abreu fails outright. As such, you can bet that opposing teams will challenge him with inside fastballs early in his major league tenure. This probably will be a boon for fantasy owners. If the White Sox are right and Abreu is a major league first baseman, we should see some bonus power numbers before teams begin to adjust.

FanGraphs’ Dan Farnsworth discussed Abreu’s swing in more detail about a week ago. Dan finds that Abreu’s batting stroke compares favorably to Buster Posey and Cabrera, which is certainly a point in Abreu’s favor. It’s important to note that several skills need to work in tandem for a hitter to find good results, and the basic mechanics are just one of them.

We’ll have to wait for spring training to get a better sense of playing time considerations. It’s possible the Sox take a page out of the Detroit Tigers’ playbook and try Abreu at third base while Dunn and Konerko continue to age their way off the roster. Don’t bet on that outcome just yet, since nobody worth mentioning has even speculated that it may happen.

It’s more likely that Chicago lets Konerko walk or juggles its three first baseman/DHs in and out of the lineup to keep them all fresh. That would hurt Abreu’s value if it comes to pass.

Abreu will be hyped going into the draft, but unknown players usually retain upside, even when they are drafted highly. Since Abreu is currently in the first-base mix and plays for a (probably) bad lineup, he may get overlooked as a top-end hitter.

Here are the things we can count on. The White Sox will give their investment every opportunity to adjust to the majors. He’s very likely to be inserted directly into the middle of the order and should start at least five days a week.

We can speculate that he has upside to provide value in home runs, RBI, and possibly batting average. If he drives enough home runs, he should manage a decent runs total. As with most first basemen, don’t expect stolen bases.

If Abreu is on your target sheet, try to aim at paying for a 80/25/90/0/.270 line. It’s a bit early to price that accurately, but for standard 12-team leagues, that should run around $17-22 or a mid-round pick. He has monster upside, but just remember that these kinds of picks have a high bust rate.

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