“A lot of people simply don’t realize their potential because they’re just so risk adverse. They just don’t want to take the risk.” Benjamin Carson
At a time when teams are looking for first basemen, there are two potential wild cards in the American League Central. Both players are listed at 6’3” and have similar power potential while neither is fleet of foot. One has spent the past five years playing in the Cuban professional league and appeared in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. The other had a great season in AA Akron and is presently tearing up his winter league in Venezuela. Each has the potential to struggle with inside fastballs at the major league level according to scouts. Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Jesus Aguilar of Cleveland are both first basemen that fantasy players may need to know during the upcoming season, especially for those in deeper leagues or AL only formats.
Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox
Abreu will turn 27 this month so his debut in the majors will be during his power peak. Former GM Jim Bowden gave him a 70 grade for power on the 20-80 scale. Prior to signing with the White Sox, another scout speculated that Abreu was capable of hitting 260 as a rookie with 25 home runs. It is tough to project solely on the Cuban league stats but here are Abreu’s results the past three seasons:
2010 – 11 Stats – 66 G, 79 R, 33 HR, 93 RBI 453/597/986
2011 – 12 Stats – 87 G, 71 R, 35 HR, 99 RBI 394/542/837
2012 – 13 Stats – 42 G, 37 R, 13 HR, 36 RBI, 382/535/735
In 2010-11 he tied Yoenis Cespedes for the home run title. He missed time that year due to some bursitis in his shoulder which cost him the home run title outright. Abreu has done well in International competition as well highlighted by his 2013 World Baseball Classic grand slam. In the WBC Abreu went 9 for 25 with a walk, a double, 3 home runs, 6 runs and 9 RBI in 6 games. Even though Edwin Encarnacion was named the All Star first baseman for the Classic, many believed it should have gone to Abreu.
While some scouts believe he has a slider speed bat in the majors, other scouts speculate that with some conditioning he can become a top flight power hitting first baseman. The first season will not be the final say for Abreu but it will help when projecting him for the future. One worry I have is the lack of games played in the Cuban season compared to the 162 game grind in the majors. I am also interested to see how he adjusts to off-speed pitches or a slump. His comps range from Miguel Cabrera to Dayan Viciedo. The recent success of Cuban prospects like Puig and Cespedes has created the opportunity for Abreu in Chicago this year. Just remember, he is not the same athlete as either Puig or Cespedes, but his power can translate. In deeper mixed leagues he is worth an end game grab. For AL only leagues he may be a great corner infield option as his ceiling may match that of a Mitch Moreland. So when drafting or at an auction, rostering Abreu will depend on what level of risk you can handle. As for a projection, that is tough as well, but here is mine:
My 2014 Abreu Projection – 145 G, 69 R, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 1 SB 272/350/500
Jesus Aguilar – Cleveland Indians
2013 AA Stats – 130 G, 66 R, 16 HR, 105 RBI 275/349/427
Venezuelan Winter League – 58 G, 49 R, 18 HR, 50 RBI 327/403/597
Not only is Aguilar tearing up the winter league in Venezuela, he was added to the 40 man roster for Cleveland in November. There may be an opportunity as soon as this year for him to debut with the Indians. Swisher can play right field and whether he or Santana is at first or DH, he may be promoted this year. He has yet to play in AAA, so spring training will go a long way towards determining how soon he will be in the majors. Unlike Abreu, Aguilar is only 23 so there is time for him to season in the minors. Improved discipline at the plate has been preached to him by the Indians and it seems that is manifesting itself in his OBP for the winter. As for 2014, I think he will start in AAA and gain promotion after the super 2 date has passed so the team can have one more year of service. He will be worth a pick up if he is promoted in June especially if your team needs power. Aguilar is definitely a player worth tracking and could be a power hitting first baseman for the Indians sooner rather than later.
My 2014 Aguilar Projection – 100 G, 40 R, 13 HR, 49 RBI 262/325/470
Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow him on Twitter @gjewett9
Jose Abreu picture image: http://www.trbimg.com/img-526ff3c7/turbine/chi-jose-abreu-20131029/600