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Pondering About Abreu

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One day later, I'm still confused about Tony Abreu's call up. Grady Little claims that we need a hot bat but, as Jon Weisman points out, Andy LaRoche and Wilson Betemit have combined for a .959 OPS in May. All Tony Abreu does is add another utility infilder to the Dodgers roster that is unlikely to out produce Betemit or LaRoche in the long term.

The original plan for Tony Abreu seemed to be that he would be in contention for the Dodgers second base job in 2008 or 2009.  This seemed reasonable. He showed good contact ability in AA, but a .290/.345/.394 line in Jacksonville doesn't exactly scream can't miss prospect. The thing is that nothing has fundamentally changed about Abreu between 2006 and 2007. Compare his batted ball stats over the last two years.

2006 (AA)
Ground Balls: 47.6%
Line Drives: 20.0%
Fly Balls: 26.1%
Popups:  6.1%
AB/K: 6.65
BABIP: .331

2007 (AAA)
Ground Balls : 49.3%
Line Drives: 20.4%
Fly Balls: 26.8%
Popups: 3.5%
AB/K 5.97
BABIP: .408

Abreu's batted ball numbers are almost exactly the same between 2006 and 2007. The only difference between the two years is a BABIP that is 77 points higher. This pretty much entirely accounts for Abreu's sudden jump from "guy that's two years away" to "guy we must add now". What the Dodgers be as excited about Abreu if he were hitting .274/.337/.416 like his batted ball stats suggest he should be? Abreu is still the same guy he was a year ago. He certainly is improving if he kept his numbers steady between AA and AAA, but he's not nearly ready for the bigs.

What happens if Abreu continues his illusionary hot streak? What if, over his next 100 at bats, Abreu hits .330/.380/.450? Is the job his? Are the powerless Dodgers going to insert a guy with almost zero pop into the last place they can easily add a power bat? Do they trade Andy LaRoche because Tony Abreu is suddenly the third baseman of the future? Does LaRoche sit in AAA for two years until Abreu can move to second? It's hard to say.

If Abreu struggles at the outset, how much of a leash does he have? Andy LaRoche got 43 plate appearances and compiled an on base percentage of .467, yet he still didn't get consistent play time, and his going to get even less swings in the near future. Does a prospect have to hit for a high average immediately to get a real chance on this team? If Abreu fails, who's next?

Right now, Tony Abreu is a guy that I wouldn't mind starting for the Dodgers at second base in 2009. He's got a nice swing, and his low strikeout rate with good line drive hitting skills in the minors shows he can be a productive middle infielder in a couple years. What Tony Abreu can't be is a productive corner infielder in 2007.