When the New York Yankees acquired Albert Abreu for Brian McCann last November, who would have known this kind of start was coming?On November 17, 2016, the New York Yankees took another step in their transition from old to new by trading Brian McCann to the Houston Astros for pitching prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman.
At face value, they did eat a lot of money and lose someone who just joined Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, and Mike Piazza on the list of catchers in history to have more than 20 home runs in 10 straight seasons, but what one of the prospects is doing down on the farm is making it all worth it.
Albert Abreu, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher from Guayubin, Dominican Republic, is off to a tremendous start in the Yankees’ system.
He made his first three appearances (two starts) of the season for the Single-A Charleston Riverdogs and through 14.2 innings of work, Abreu struck out 22 batters compared to just three walks while surrendering nine hits (.180 BAA).
One of those three outings included an absolute masterpiece against the Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants) in which the Yankees’ 10th-best prospect struck out 11, walked none and allowed just two hits over 5.2 innings of work.
It should come as no surprise. Just look at that breaking ball:
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) April 13, 2017
10 days after that gem of a performance, the Yankees gave Abreu a promotion and called him up to High-A Tampa where he didn’t fall off despite an improved opposition.
In his High-A debut on Tuesday against the Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia Phillies), the flamethrower turned in seven innings of two-run ball and allowed just four hits. Abreu threw 96 pitches and 69 of them (72 percent) while inducing 13 ground ball outs among the 29 batters faced.
Overall, Abreu has struck out 26 batters over 21.2 innings pitched between the two levels (10.8 K/9) and has held opposing hitters to a .208 batting average (0.969 WHIP). His ERA in his three starts stands at 1.53, as he has only surrendered three earned runs out of the 70 batters faced thus far.
It does appear that the upside they traded their catcher for is certainly working out. Or, at the very least, you know that this is why general manager Brian Cashman traded for this kid over the offseason. But what can he expect from this now-top prospect as he climbs the ladder?
MLB Pipeline suggests that Abreu has the ability to be a frontline starter in the majors at some point in his future. He has shown flashes of bullpen ability, but the Yankees plan on molding him into a starter and given his arsenal (a fastball that can pump 99, power slider, power curve and changeup), he may be able to accomplish that ceiling.
In the end, however, he’s got ways to go before truly budding into the type of starter that winds up in the Bronx thanks to his command. His minor league career walk rate currently stands at 4.3 and although he posted a 1.8 BB/9 in Charleston this season, it’s not evident that he’ll be able to sustain that rate across a full season coming off a 2016 season that saw Abreu post a 5.1 BB/9 rate.
Though the command needs work, working to repeat his inconsistent yet simple delivery can help him and his blazing fastball pave a path to the show sooner rather than later.