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Chicago White Sox

Jose Abreu helping White Sox now and in the future

13 September 2016: Chicago White Sox First base Jose Abreu (79) [4333] during a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox at US Cellular Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire)
(Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire)

Jose Abreu didn’t get an invitation to Miami for the All-Star Game, and he’s not going to finish his career with 3,000 hits or 500 home runs.

None of that changes the fact that he’s one of the most talented hitters in baseball.

Abreu is hitting .299/.349/.522 for the White Sox, and he’s on pace to hit 30 homers for the third time in a four-season career. He’s also well on the way to a fourth straight 100-RBI season.

That’s what Abreu has done every year. He’s a career .299/.358/.516 hitter and he averages 32 homers and 110 RBIs per 162 games.

He got a late start to his major-league career due to the accident of being born in Cuba, but he was a legend long before that. At the age of 24, he hit .453/.597/986 in 66 games and broke Alfredo Despaigne’s Cuban record of 32 homers in a season. Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes both hit 33 homers in the 2010-11 season, but Abreu did it while missing 23 games in an 89-game season.

In March 2013, he hit .383 for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, then defected in August. He rarely talks about the trip, which included a dangerous overnight sea journey from Cuba to Haiti in a 20-foot boat. He wasn’t alone – he traveled with his parents, his fiancée and his sister and brother-in-law – and the boat nearly swamped several times.

He won’t give many more details, because he wants to leave the road open for the players that are still on the island.

Abreu was making $20 a week when he left Cuba, but signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the White Sox. That was seen as a huge risk, since he was already 27 and hadn’t played for a year, but he hasn’t given them any reason to regret the contract.

He was the AL Rookie of the Month in April 2014 and never looked back. He hit .317 with a .383 on-base percentage and led the league with a .581 slugging percentage and a 173 OPS+. He played in the All-Star Game and finished fourth in the MVP voting with 36 homers and 107 RBI.

Abreu hasn’t matched that production in the last three years, but he’s still the heart of Chicago’s offense. He has hit at least .290 every season with an on-base percentage around .350 and a slugging percentage near .500. At 30, he’s become a veteran presence for a franchise that is loaded with prospects.

Avisail Garcia is playing in his first All-Star Game and Leury Garcia was having a breakout season before injuring his hand. The biggest stars, though, are two more Cuban defectors – outfielder Luis Robert and infielder Yoan Moncada. Abreu played with Moncada for Cienfuegos, about 160 miles from Havana, and he helped recruit Robert to the White Sox organization.

Now he’s serving as a mentor to both players, helping them with the adjustment to life in the United States and preparing them for the major leagues. Moncada came to the White Sox as part of the Chris Sale trade, and is beating up Triple-A pitching, while the 19-year-old Robert is playing in the Dominican Summer League. In his final Cuban season, he hit .401/.526/.687 as an 18-year-old playing in a league where the average age is 29.

That’s why, while Abreu is disappointed in missing the All-Star Game, he knows his legacy will continue through the players that he’s mentoring. Garcia is the one who is representing the White Sox in Miami, while Moncada and Robert could easily be there in the years to come.

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