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Prospect Retro: Bobby Abreu

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Prospect Retro: Bobby Abreu

Bobby Abreu 10 years ago

Per reader requests, a Prospect Retro for Bobby Abreu.

Bobby Abreu was signed out of Venezuela by the Houston Astros in 1990. He hit .301 in 56 games of rookie ball in '91, not showing much power (.372 SLG), but more than holding his own considering that he was just 17 years old. Retrospectively, I would have given him a Grade C or C+, a typical grade for a young athlete at the lowest levels of minor league ball.

Abreu jumped past short-season Class A in '92, moving directly to the Sally League at age 18, hitting .292/.377/.402. His power was starting to improve, and he showed very good plate discipline, drawing 63 walks against 79 strikeouts in 135 at-bats. Baseball America rated him the Number 7 overall prospect in the Sally League, and that looks appropriate in hindsight. He would have been a Grade B or B+ prospect by my current standards.

In '93, Abreu moved up to the Florida State League, hitting .283/.356/.430, with 21 doubles and 17 triples. Although he hit just 5 homers, it was apparent that his power was increasing, as shown by the large number of doubles and triples, given the difficult nature of the FSL for young power hitters. His plate discipline slipped a bit, but again considering his age, there was little to complain about. I'm reasonably certain I would have given him a Grade B+ by this point, although he did disappear from the BA Top Ten.

Promoted to Double-A for '94, Abreu hit .302/.372/.530 in 118 games for Jackson, at age 20. That's B+ or A- material, showing improved power at age 20 in Double-A. BA named him the Number Six prospect in the Texas League, and he would certainly have appeared in my Top 50 prospect list (if I had been doing one at the time).

Moved up to Triple-A for '95, Abreu hit.304.404/.516, with 24 doubles, 17 triples, and 10 homers. I remember at the time that there was some complaint that he wasn't hitting enough homers, but again we're talking about a 21-year-old in Triple-A, and all the doubles and triples were a very positive marker. Eddie Epstein gave Abreu a Grade A- in the first edition of the Minor League Scouting Notebook, and ranked him as the 13th-best prospect in all of baseball.

But Abreu didn't get a cup-of-coffee that fall, and he didn't make the Astros in '96, getting sent back to Tucson for another summer in the Arizona sun. He seemed to stagnate a bit, hitting .285/.393/.461. Nevertheless, I gave him a straight Grade A rating in my first book (the '96 Minor League Scouting Notebook), and ranked him the 10th overall prospect in baseball. He hit .227/.292/.273 in a brief 15-game exposure for the Astros late in the year.

Abreu split '97 between Triple-A New Orleans and Houston, hitting just .250/.329/.372 in 59 games for the Astros. Disappointed, the Houston braintrust decided to keep Richard Hidalgo instead of Abreu, exposing Bobby to the expansion draft. This turned out to be one of the worst decisions in baseball history. Of course, Houston's mistake was soon exceeded, as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays promptly traded Abreu (who they had picked 6th overall) to the Phillies for good field/no hit shortstop Kevin Stocker. Abreu hit .312/.409/.497 in '98 for the Phils, Stocker hit .208/.282/.312 for the D-Rays, and was out of baseball within 3 years.

Abreu has been one of the best hitters in baseball for since being picked in the expansion draft. His minor league career was marked by decent walk rates, plus tons of doubles and triples, a sign of power potential. He has been extremely productive and remarkably consistent for the Phillies.

Comparable Players to Bobby Abreu, based on Sim Score and PECOTA (no active players included)

Dave Parker
Tony Oliva
Fred Lynn
Wally Berger
Reggie Smith
Andy Van Slyke
Bobby Murcer
Jose Cruz

It should be noted that Parker, Oliva, and Lynn were all considered Hall of Fame-quality players during their careers although they haven't made it in yet for various reasons. Smith and Cruz could have been Hall of Famers under different circumstances (ie, playing in a higher-offense era than the 70s). Berger, Van Slyke, and Mercer were all solid players as well, although I think Abreu is better.