2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Jose Abreu Powered Up Over the Last Month

by Ryan Kirksey
2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Jose Abreu Powered Up Over the Last Month

Welcome to 2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Jose Abreu Powered Up Over the Last Month!

June 4th may have seemed like just any other day in Major League Baseball. And for most players, it was. But that also represented the day that Abreu sat on the bench for just the second time all season. Finally getting a rest day after weeks of being in the lineup, something clicked. After a terrible start to the season, Abreu has been one of the game's best players over the last month.

How was he able to turn it around over the last month and what has changed in his profile? Let's dive into Abreu's profile to check on what adjustments he is making.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Jose Abreu Powered Up Over the Last Month

Jose Abreu's First Two Months Were Horrific

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The Houston Astros' signing of Abreu in the offseason was thought to be a good one for fantasy purposes. The short left field porch at the Crawford Boxes in Minute Maid Park was seemingly a perfect fit for Abreu's power and tendencies to pull the ball. In fact, according to Baseball Savant, Abreu would have hit more home runs in 2022 if he had been an Astro and not on the White Sox.

It made sense that managers in all kinds of league formats were freaking out about Abreu's power potential in his new home park. Yuli Gurriel was not around to steal playing time and Michael Brantley was (and is) hurt. Abreu is a player who likes to suit up every day, so his NFBC ADP in the spring rose to 85th overall and the sixth first baseman taken, on average.

But that was about the last time his fantasy managers would have optimism for a long, long time. Abreu's slash line when June 3rd ended was a horrific .213/.273/.264, or basically what Jace Peterson has been this season. He was giving us none of the counting stats we needed (just one home run) and none of the rate stats either. He was clearly sinking many fantasy teams that invested a ninth-round pick on Abreu.

But since then, he has turned things around in a massive way.

Literally every batting metric improved from June 5th until this July 4th, Abreu, as many predicted he would be, is a top-40 rotisserie player over the last 30 days. He has hit .309/.337/.567 in that span and has the 27th-highest wRC+ (155) among all batters in that time. So what exactly changed that helped Abreu break out of his massive slump? The Astros as a team are now pushing 10 games over .500 and just took three of four from rival Texas. Much of that success has been due to Abreu's stellar month. He has made significant changes to get his swing back on track bring the power back.

Let's look at what adjustments he made.

Abreu Started Swinging at all the Right Pitches

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It doesn't take too deep of a dive to discover what was causing the disappointing start to Abreu's season. Through the two-plus months of the season, Abreu was 161st out of 162 eligible players in wRC+ (50). Primarily, it was due to him swinging way too much in pitches out of the zone. And it was coupled with him swinging way too little at the good pitches in the zone.

Before June 4th, Abreu was 139th out of 162 batters with a 37.7% swinging strike rate on balls outside the zone. And somehow he ranked just 107th with a 66.3% swing rate on balls in the zone. Either he was not seeing the ball well or was getting fooled all the time to have those numbers be so far below average. Those have both drastically improved.

While for many of our fantasy assets, we might preach patience and pitch selection, Abreu is a player who benefits from being aggressive and looking for balls he can drive over that short left-field fence. He was a top-15 player last season in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. And that was with just an average 9% walk rate in 2022.

During this recent stretch, you won't be surprised to find Abreu's walk rate has plummeted. In the past month, that number is just over 5% (148th in the league), but the other numbers are phenomenal. Since June 5th, Abreu has played 24 games heading into the July 4th holiday. In those games, he is slashing .309/.337/.567 with six bombs and 22 runs batted in. Fangraphs lists him as the 10th-best fantasy player over the last seven days that ended on July 4th. That's more like the type of player who went in the top nine rounds overall in the spring.

You can see based on the graph below from FanGraphs that Abreu had a wild 120-point swing in his wRC+ after he started making these adjustments. Fantasy managers are hoping they are here to stay.

Expect More of the Same From Abreu for Your Fantasy Baseball Teams in the Second Half

You add it all up, and Abreu now is capable of being a top-50 hitter for the rest of the season. His being more aggressive at the plate over the last 30 days allows him to do what he does best. We know hard-hit balls most highly correlate to hits, so Abreu's production has followed the predictable adjustments he has made at the plate. We can reasonably expect this to continue all season.

Abreu has the track record, home-park advantage, and ability to play every single day that shows us the turnaround here is definitely real.

Fantasy managers who stayed the course and did not panic or sell low should be able to benefit from Abreu's elite top-of-the-draft production for the rest of the season. If there are still managers in your league who might look at the cumulative .243/.292/.358 slash line with disdain, make them a low-ball offer. This is a player you want on your roster for the rest of the season.

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