Six years ago, Chicago first baseman José Abreu was given Rookie of the Year honors. In 2020, Chicago went to the postseason for the first time in over a decade and Abreu takes home the Most Valuable Player Award. His 60 RBIs led the American League, while his 19 home runs, .317 batting average and .617 slugging percentage finished second, fourth and fourth respectively. Prior to 202, he had 100+ RBI in five of six seasons and he continues to be a staple of consistency at the first base position. His numbers in 2020 were impressive, but to really put it into context, his full season would have been insane:
Over 600 at-bats, or 162 games, Abreu would have had 47 home runs and 162 RBI.
Thanks to career highs in average exit velocity (92.9 mph), barrel rate (14.3%) and hard hit rate (53.3%), per Baseball Savant, Abreu was able to take his offensive game to another level in 2020. He homered every 12.6 at-bats, which is exceptional and improved upon recent seasons.
His HR/FB ratio took a massive jump in 2020. Sure, power binge in a small sample size helped, but increasing line drive rate, steady fly ball rate and hard contact will give you the benefit of the doubt when trying to leave the yard.
His hard contact was up overall, but it was also slightly elevated where it matters most for a player like Abreu. Screw ground balls, show me the exit velocity on just fly balls and line drives!
Exit Velocity on FB/LD
While the overall power rate may not be quite sustainable over the course of the 2021 season, he’s shown that he has it in him, and his numbers from the past couple seasons are still well above average. From 2017-2019, he hit 88 home runs with a .286 batting average, with two of those seasons having at least 33 home runs and 102 RBI. It cannot be understated, but Abreu is as consistent as they come.
Abreu’s 6.9 percent walk rate in 2020 was his highest mark since 2014, but don’t be fooled. His walk rate has been anywhere from 5.2-percent to 6.9-percent from 2015-2020. He remained pretty on par with most of his career numbers, except for two that stick out: Swinging strike rate and contact rate.
Abreu’s 71.5-percent contact rate in 2020 was the lowest of his career and over five percentage points lower than his mark from 2014-2019. In that same span, his swinging strike rate was 11.6-percent, but it ballooned to 13.8-percent. Typically, a good estimate of strikeout percentage is double your swinging strike rate. It’s not the perfect formula, but using this factor, Abreu is lucky that his strikeout percentage was in the low-20s, compared to the mid-to-upper 20s.
Taking Abreu in the third round of a 15-team setup might not be the flashiest, but sometimes paying for consistency is worth every penny. Abreu has proven to be one of the most reliable options at his position in fantasy baseball over the years, and he showed in 2020 that there’s some big time power upside in that bat of his. He’s got a supremely talented crew around him, providing plenty of reason to believe that Abreu’s home run total should reside in the mid-30s, with 40ish long balls being his ceiling, on top of 100 RBI (with ease) and a .290ish batting average.
The lack of flashiness, or draft appeal, with Abreu is prevalent, as he’s sliding back a bit in NFBC drafts.
Are guys being drafted around Abreu like Luis Robert or Eloy Jiménez more flashy of picks? Absolutely. Are they locks for 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI like Abreu has proven to be? Abreu has been popping off 30+ homer and 100+ RBI seasons before Robert and Jimenez were even born!
If you took some risk with one of your first two picks, a safe, reliable option like Abreu makes a lot of sense for your team in the middle-to-late third round.