Dan's Data: Cuban Rookie Makes Chisox Respectable • Latino Sports

Baseball

Dan’s Data: Cuban Rookie Makes Chisox Respectable

on

The 2013 Chicago White Sox finished dead last in the American League Central with a 63-99 record that left them 30 games behind the front-running Detroit Tigers.

JAbreuCubacard

In Cuba, Jose Abreu was a teammate of Yasiel Puig.

Determined to engineer a reversal of fortune, the team outbid a half-dozen competitors to land Cuban refugee Jose Abreu, a first baseman who had played in the World Baseball Classic and other international competitions. A one-time teammate of Yasiel Puig, who reached the majors with the Dodgers last summer, Abreu quickly became the No. 1 prospect in the White Sox organization.

He didn’t disappoint. The 6-3, 255-pound righthanded hitter had more home runs and runs batted in than any man in the majors. In fact, he smashed the previous rookie record for first-month RBI held by Albert Pujols (27 for the 2001 St. Louis Cardinals).

Albert Pujols got off to a strong start in his rookie year.  (Photo LSV)

Albert Pujols got off to a strong start in his rookie year. (Photo LSV)

As a result, he was named American League Player of the Month and AL Rookie of the Month. The first Chicago player to win the monthly rookie honor since Magglio Ordonez in 2003, Abreu hit .270 in April with 10 home runs, 20 runs scored, and 32 runs batted in, all while playing 29 games. He led both leagues in home runs, RBI, extra-base hits (19) and total bases (71) and set rookie records in each department.

Not since 1982 (Kent Hrbek) has any rookie led the majors in homers and RBI during the first month.

“He’s good,” said Chicago manager Robin Ventura, stating the obvious, “but he’s not just a good hitter — he makes adjustments between and even during his at-bats. Plus he likes to hit with men on base.”

One of four Cubans contributing to Chicago’s fortunes, Abreu had more April RBI than any previous White Sox player. “I am surprised,” he said. “I didn’t have these expectations, especially with all the cold weather.”

Rival pitchers could have another rude awakening once the weather warms. “I don’t go looking for records,” said the rookie, who wears No. 79 because his mom picked it for him years ago. “I just go to the field to play ball and help my team.”

JABREUblackuni

Jose Abreu has found the Sox uniform a good fit

Abreu’s batting average isn’t much to write home about but he’s living up to the legacy of Paul Konerko and Jim Thome, both of whom manned the first base bag for Chicago previously.

The only man in baseball history to knock in at least four runs four times in his first 26 contests, Abreu is proving that his six-year, $68 million contract is a bargain for the Sox. At 27, he’s old for a rookie but nobody seems to mind.

The presence of fellow Cuban refugees Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on the White Sox roster convinced Abreu he’d be comfortable in Chicago.  His 12 homers and 34 RBI through games of May 4 show that he is.

Elsewhere on the baseball beat:

Melky Cabrera continues to thrive even after he was bumped down a peg in the Toronto order with Jose Reyes back from hamstring problems. He has the highest batting average among the Jays and ranks among AL leaders . . .

Melky is hitting again

Melky is hitting again

With the Cubs floundering, versatile Emilio Bonifacio has emerged as the team’s biggest trading chip . . .

Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, pitching well this season, lost a 1-0 duel to Philadelphia’s Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona) at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park Sunday . . .

Nelson Cruz is raking for the Orioles, who have made the ex-Ranger their No. 3 hitter . . .

The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best offense-oriented DP tandem in baseball with speed merchant Dee Gordon at second and former batting champ Hanley Ramirez at short . . .

Nolan Arenado, in his first full season as Colorado’s third baseman, has proven to be the secret weapon of the Rockies this year . . .

Venezuelan righthander Jhoulys Chacin, a 14-game winner in 2013, had a rocky return to the Rockies Sunday after missing all of April with an injury . . .

Who knew that Juan Lagares would blossom into the sparkplug that the Mets needed both in the lineup and in the outfield? . . .

Where has Derek Jeter’s power gone? As his 40th birthday approaches at the end of June, the Yankee captain can count the number of extra-base hits he has this season on one hand . . .

Derek Jeter's power is missing this season

Derek Jeter’s power is missing this season

The Yankees are thankful they reacquired Alfredo Aceves, who could be called into rotation service after working five-and-a-third scoreless innings of relief over the weekend . . .

Playing in Colorado helped Curtis Granderson boost his batting average but he left Denver at .173 and is proving to be a major drag on the Mets’ game plan . . .

You heard it here first: the prolonged absences of Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper will keep the Washington Nationals from reaching postseason play this year.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

Recommended for you