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Jose Abreu to Astros - Fantasy Baseball Impact

The reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros did not waste much time to begin their quest for a repeat in 2023, signing first baseman Jose Abreu to a three-year deal early in the offseason. Presumedly, Abreu takes Yuli Gurriel's spot there and slides into the three or four-hole in that elite Astros lineup.

Abreu's Major League career started late as he was already 27-years-old for his rookie year, putting him at 36-years-old for his 10th MLB season coming up. Despite the elevated age, we haven't seen much degradation in performance, and clearly, the Astros feel good about his continued success as evidenced by that three-year contract.

Let's dig a bit deeper into Abreu and talk about what to expect for 2023.

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The Model of Consistency

Nine years and a minimum batting average of .265 with a minimum slugging of .446 - that's really impressive stuff. His best fantasy attribute has been the RBI, as he has driven in 863 runs in his career. That's a pace of 110 RBI over a 162-game season. Now, he gets to be a part of arguably the best lineup he will ever have been a part of, so the RBI projection should and will be quite high for the veteran.

 

Declining Power?

The aforementioned career-minimum slugging percentage occurred in 2022. That's important to note. He also hit a career-low 15 homers (he hit four more homers in the 2020 season which is pretty wild since he played 83 more games in 2022). The barrel rate fell below 10% (to 9.5%) for the first time since 2018 - so that's all the bad news.

The GOOD news is that's the END of the BAD news. Abreu's lack of power was not about a loss of swing speed. As evidence for that, I point to his 51.7% hard-hit rate and his .373 xwOBA - both of those marks were significantly ahead of what he did in 2021 and 2019. He was hitting the ball with more force than ever before if you don't include that 2020 season where he won the MVP award.

A probable explanation for the lack of home runs was just the launch angle stuff. His ground-ball rate hit a career-high at 47.9%.

So the question here is about if this is a new thing for Abreu, or if this was just the result of randomness. I'm not sure about the answer to that, but I certainly do lean towards GB% fluctuation being a result of randomness. A 45% GB% in 2023 would not be at all surprising to me, and if he keeps the same great swing speed, he could easily bounce right back above 25 homers. The Crawford Boxes in Minute Maid Park could certainly help make that a reality, as the Astros have one of the most advantageous left fields in the league for home runs.

If we layer Minute Maid's dimensions over his spray chart (using the Baseball Savant Illustrator tool), we see that he would have had a handful more home runs had he played every game in Houston last year.

I think we should fully expect Abreu to outdo his 15 home runs in 2023, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he doubles that mark.

 

Conclusion

This is a big upgrade for Abreu. The Astros are one of the top lineups in the league. He will have great bats in front of him and behind him, paving the way for another big counting stat year.

The best news of all is that Abreu's "down year" in 2022 really isn't backed up by the underlying numbers. He still hit the ball with authority, and he even dropped the K% down to an elite 16.2%. More year-over-year stats for your enjoyment here:

This is an easy 180 or better R+RBI season for Abreu, and I really do think he clears 20 homers again while maintaining a good batting average. We'll see where the draft price ends up with most people recognizing that this was a great landing spot for Abreu, but I doubt the cost will be too high given the age and how "boring" (read: consistently good) he's been for so many years now. Sign me up for some Abreu shares in 2023!



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