Fantasy Baseball First Base Player Spotlight: Jose Abreu
Ray Kuhn breaks down Jose Abreu and what to expect from him for the 2023 season.
When drafting a fantasy baseball team, it is often helpful to break each position down into multiple tiers. While this does require some work, especially in the case of first base, it often takes place organically within the ADP. Everyone knows the top five first baseman for 2023 are Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Pete Alonso, Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Matt Olson, but then what? There are two exciting young options in Vinnie Pasquantino and Nathaniel Lowe, but what happens between those groups? This is where the Houston Astros’ new addition of Jose Abreu very easily gets lost.
Jose Abreu, Houston Astros
After Olson comes off the board with an NFBC ADP of 41 (in drafts from February 1st through March 11th) there is then a long drought until we get to Abreu’s ADP of 87. If you do miss out on the top five first baseman, you could very easily see there is a larger differential between Olson and the top four than we are currently seeing, then there is no need to fret as you can continue addressing other areas of your team for the next few rounds.
There are a few factors working against Abreu, perhaps most notably his age and lack of upside as we have already seen the best he has to offer, but is there anything wrong with that? At this point in his career, Abreu has proven to be quite the capable run producer and consistent performer. Now in his new home, the veteran joins the best lineup he has ever been a part of with the Astros, so it only stands to reason that his success will continue.
After hitting 30 home runs in 2021 to go along with his 117 RBI and a solid .261 batting average, Abreu took a step back last year in the power department as he finished with just 15 home runs and 75 RBI although his batting average did jump up to .304. Seeing that regression, along with the fact that Abreu is now closer to 40 than 30 helped to contribute a sense of caution on him entering 2023.
While we do not want to subscribe to or rely on groupthink, NFBC drafts are often a good sample size of how we should be thinking directionally, so it is interesting to see Abreu still being drafted ahead of Pasquantino and Lowe.
Upon first glance, aside from the proven track record of success, it is hard to get truly behind Abreu and his 9.5%-barrel rate and eight-degree average launch angle from last season. Historically though, Abreu stood out in either category with non-shortened season highs of 12% and 12.2 degrees, respectively. Yes, each of those metrics did suffer a decrease, but it is still not too far off from what Abreu had previously established.
Following a surface glance though, things do look better for Abreu as there is certainly some optimism to be found. While Abreu did hit just 15 home runs last year, the first baseman had an expected home run total of 18 and that mark then jumps to 22 when you look at him based on Houston’s home park.
With a hard-hit rate of 51.8% which was in the 97th percentile last year, it certainly does make you think twice about what Abreu can do at the plate. When we dig into some other metrics for Abreu, it really should not surprise you why he is being drafted where he is and also why the Astros made pursuing him such a priority this offseason:
- Maximum Exit Velocity of 113 miles per hour which was in the 89th percentile
- Average Exit Velocity of 92.2 miles per hour which was in the 93rd percentile
- An xBA of .296 which finished in the 98th percentile
- An xSLG of .486 which was in the 92nd percentile
Additionally, Abreu’s approach at the plate remained sound as his Chase Rate decreased to 29.8% in 2022. There is still a lot left in the tank for Abreu while you want to make your own evaluations on players, sometimes following the crowd of your fellow drafters and also one of the more educated major league teams who are both pursuing him.
With that being said, Abreu is not a player I would truly go out of my way to target here, but he can certainly fit into most plans, and I have no issues taking him if he is the best player on the board. As much as we like Pasquantino and Lowe, the hope here is their buzz takes them past Abreu which makes it that much better of a pick.