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Abreu happily accepting role of leader

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The White Sox future -- which is currently tied to its prized haul of prospects and glimmers of promise -- has no guarantee of a title, like their crosstown rivals, but the next generation of hopefuls will likely be guided by first baseman Jose Abreu.

The 30-year-old slugger is in the middle of his best season since his 2014 All-Star rookie campaign, even as his team struggles, and he slugged two homers in a 6-3 loss to the rival Cubs on Thursday that dropped the club to 39-60 -- the worst record in the American League.

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CHICAGO -- The White Sox future -- which is currently tied to its prized haul of prospects and glimmers of promise -- has no guarantee of a title, like their crosstown rivals, but the next generation of hopefuls will likely be guided by first baseman Jose Abreu.

The 30-year-old slugger is in the middle of his best season since his 2014 All-Star rookie campaign, even as his team struggles, and he slugged two homers in a 6-3 loss to the rival Cubs on Thursday that dropped the club to 39-60 -- the worst record in the American League.

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Abreu has hit .297 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs this season, yet another solid campaign for the former prized free-agent signing. Through 99 games, his OPS is .873 -- more than 100 points higher than it was at this point last season.

With each White Sox trade -- six players have been dealt since the All-Star break, following moves that shipped out Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this past offseason -- Abreu has found himself becoming the established voice in the clubhouse. It's a role he's embraced, particularly with the callups of some highly touted prospects, such as fellow Cuban and MLBPipeline.com's No. 1, Yoan Moncada.

"Even though my English is not good, I've been trying to communicate with the young guys and with everybody," Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. "I think that's something good not just for them but for me to be more ... I don't want to say a leader, but like a mentor for them, because I have some experience, and I think that my knowledge can help them to do better, too."

Manager Rick Renteria sees Abreu evolving as a player, particularly in the locker room. Abreu now ranks just behind relievers Nate Jones and Jake Petricka and outfielder Avisail Garcia as the longest-tenured White Sox, and his voice has carried weight for the first-year skipper.

"He has been continuing to grow into that role," Renteria said. "He has taken a much more vocal role, communicating with players, his teammates. He has asserted himself extremely well.

"As he moves forward in his career and we continue to move forward and progress with all of the transformation that's going on, it's natural for him to fill that spot."

Shortstop Tim Anderson and left-hander Carlos Rodon are among the few faces directly tied to the organization's future who are already in the Majors, and even with last week's callup of Moncada, many of those who are hoped to contribute to a postseason currently reside in the Minor Leagues.

Such players as right-hander Michael Kopech and outfielders Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez -- the No. 7 prospect in baseball, who was acquired from the Cubs as part of the deal that sent left-hander Jose Quintana to the North Siders earlier this month -- represent much of the future plans. Although Jimenez homered on Thursday night, he did so for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, years away from when he's expected to do so at Guaranteed Rate Field. It's a part of the process Abreu is eagerly awaiting.

"I'm here to help the team," Abreu said, "and if that means that I have to help the young players through that process to get to the level where they can be by themselves and perform as everybody expects for them to do it, I'd love to do it."

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu