Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu will host a showcase in the Dominican Republic at the end of September to audition for Major League scouts, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. The 26-year-old first baseman has quickly become one of the most talked-about names on the international market after defecting from the Cuban national team just over a month ago.
Crasnick spoke with four talent evaluators with extensive international experience for his piece (which is full of interesting quotes), and the responses he got from those four reflect the varying opinions the scouting community currently holds on Abreu. All four agreed that Abreu has power that is at least comparable to that of Yasiel Puig (if not greater), but one NL scout expressed concerns over his ability to catch up to fastballs, stating that Abreu has "slider bat speed." That scout opined that Abreu would feast on No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 starters but struggle against top-of-the-rotation arms. Meanwhile, another scout said that Abreu could step into a big league lineup immediately and hit .260 with 25 homers.
Abreu drew comparisons to Kendrys Morales, Dayan Viciedo, Pedro Alvarez and former Angels first-round pick C.J. Cron when Crasnick asked for comparables. The scouts noted that Morales is a better hitter than Abreu, but Abreu possesses more power than Morales. Abreu is also said to be more grounded than Puig, whose flamboyant personality has garnered plenty of negative media attention.
One person who spoke with Crasnick said Abreu has already trimmed down significantly in preparation for his showcase, easing some concerns about his weight and body type. Crasnick points out that similar concerns surrounded Puig at the time of his signing last season, but he worked himself into phenomenal shape and is far from bad-bodied or unfit at this point.
Crasnick lists the Red Sox, Rangers, Giants, Mets, White Sox, Pirates and Marlins as speculative landing spots for Abreu, noting that Pittsburgh's interest likely will depend on how high the price tag soars. One scout said he thought four years and $32MM was a fair price but added that he wouldn't be surprised to see Abreu top $10MM per season. Each party that Crasnick spoke to expressed skepticism that Abreu would really be worth the rumored $60MM price tag:
"I like him fine, but I wouldn't sell the ranch to get him," the scout said. "The problem is, Cespedes and Puig can go 0-for-4 and they can still win you a game because they can run and throw. Abreu isn't that guy. He's more an Edgar Martinez-type. He has to hit or you've got nothing. He's all bat."
Whatever the price tag, it's likely that Abreu joins Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and fellow Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero as the top international free agents on this year's market. Abreu will contend with the likes of Morales, Mike Napoli and Justin Morneau on this year's free agent market and could easily get the largest contract of any free agent first baseman.