Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Major league baseball has always been a destination for Cuban baseball players, but over the past few seasons, we may be seeing the best ever from that tiny island nation.
And that's saying a lot considering some of the great players of Cuban decent who have played America's pastime: Luis Tiant, Tony Perez, Tony Oliva, Mike Cuellar, Minnie Minoso, Rafael Palmiero, Bert Campaneris and Jose Canseco to name just a few.
When Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig came to the majors early last June, his production was off-the-charts good. Through his first 27 games, he batted .443 with eight home runs, 17 RBI and a 1.218 OPS.
We're talking so good that many fans wanted him to be selected for the All- Star game in July. Fantasy owners were turning down crazy offers for Puig. I recall in one of my leagues I offered Andrew McCutchen and was turned down by Puig's owner without even a moment of hesitation.
As good as Puig was last season, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu may end up being even better.
Through his first 27 games, Abreu is batting a modest .271, but with a major league-leading 10 homers and 32 RBI. He also leads the league with a .626 slugging percentage and 67 total bases.
It would be a colossal understatement to say he's off to a pretty good start, and based on past history, this hot streak probably isn't a fluke.
Just check out what he did in the Cuban league before he got here. He played five seasons in the Cuban Serie Nacional and his statistics are staggering.
Over his final 284 games (four seasons), he slammed 111 home runs, knocked in 284 runs, scored 269 times and never hit lower than .322. He batted .453 in 2010-11, .399 in 2009-10 and .394 in 2011-12.
If you extrapolate those numbers for a 162-game season (he's yet to miss a White Sox game this season), we're talking 63 home runs, 162 RBI and 153 runs scored.
Ok, sure, the Cuban league doesn't have the likes of Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish, but it gives you an idea that this guy swings a mean bat.
He is on a pace to blast 60 homers, which is still a sacred number that few have reached, even fewer if you delete the steroid era contingent of sluggers.
He's also not likely to reach that number, however, as major league pitchers will begin to pitch him differently ... or not to at all.
To date, he's only been walked nine times in 120 plate appearances. Expect that percentage to rise.
Puig was only walked four times in his first 112 plate appearances (3.5 percent) but 32 times in the next 320 (10 percent) as pitchers learned the penalty for throwing him too many hittable pitches.
After one month, American League pitchers should have already learned that Abreu, like Puig, should not be challenged. Therefore, we expect his 7.5 percent walk rate to rise significantly.
Abreu will have to be disciplined as pitchers bait him to swing at bad pitches.
According to PITCHf/x, he's currently swinging at strikes 71.7 percent of the time. That's a solid number, better than Yoenis Cespedes in his rookie season (64.0), but slightly below Puig's 75.6 percent in 2013.
It remains to be seen how high is high for this right-handed power hitter, but it's pretty clear that fantasy owners who drafted him are going to get way more than they expected when they selected him in the 10th round (Yahoo ADP 110).
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