Late-bloomer Abreu skyrockets in prospect ranks

March 4th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne's Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

For seven years, first in the Astros' farm system and then with the Red Sox, never got much recognition as a prospect.

When the Red Sox traded for him, he ranked 30th among Houston prospects, per MLB Pipeline. But now, as he seems reasonably close -- perhaps Opening Day-level close -- to trading his prospect status for everyday at-bats with the Red Sox, Abreu has at last moved up the ladder.

A late bloomer? Perhaps.

The 24-year-old plays with substance and consistency. He is an all-around player, though not necessarily a superstar. His entire package is at least over-riding his quiet and non-flashy demeanor.

As MLB Pipeline released Boston’s new Top 30 list on Monday, Abreu came in at No. 6, by far the highest he’s been rated. He was up 12 spots from the previous ranking.

“I’ve really never been a [big] prospect in either organization, but I think right now people are starting to realize how good I am, and that’s from all the work I’ve been putting in since I got signed,” said Abreu, a native of Venezuela. “For me, the goal is to keep working and proving to people I’m very good at baseball.”

Abreu had a strong showing in his 76-at-bat introduction to the Major Leagues at the end of last season, slashing .316/.388/.474 with two homers, 14 RBIs and three stolen bases.

The left-handed hitter will do everything in his power to be on that plane to Seattle for Opening Day on March 28.

“I think during my past years, I’ve been able to show what I can do in the Minor Leagues,” Abreu said. “I think right now it’s time to show what I can do at the big league level.”

Nobody would be happier to see that than Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham, who looked on with pride last season as Abreu worked tirelessly to complete his development in the Minors.

“I think he works really hard. He trains really hard. He hits the ball really hard. He does a lot of things pretty consistently,” said Abraham. “He is a five-tool player, in the sense in that he can run the bases, he can play defense, he can hit for power, he can hit for average and catch the ball.

“That’s everything that you want. I would say he's probably not the one who's going to be out shining and being the high-end talent like some of the others, but he does all those things really well. When you do all those things really well, you become a really impactful Major League player that can do a lot of different things at many different times.”

The 2023 season was the one in which Abreu took the goals the organization had for him to heart and checked them all off.

“A lot of credit goes to him and really focusing on areas he needed to improve on, like pulling the ball in the air,” said Abraham. “On the defensive side, some first-step quickness, really training competitively to be a better player. A lot of these guys have a ton of talent, and it’s the guys that can make that next step, guys that are willing to challenge themselves and put themselves in challenging environments to force themselves to improve who succeed. Wilyer is a really good example of that.”

By the way, Abreu has a hose for an arm, one that grades at 70 in the 20-80 scouting scale. That should be of big benefit in Fenway’s spacious right field.

“He’s a good player who has a chance to be the starting right fielder of the Red Sox,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He controls the strike zone. He plays good defense. He has a cannon. He can run the bases. Let’s see what happens. There’s a lot of decisions we have to make. The reason we have tough decisions is that we have good, dynamic players.”

With 3 1/2 weeks to go before Opening Day, Abreu will push forward the only way he knows how -- by trying to earn his spot with his diligent work ethic.

“Although there’s a good opportunity for me to stay on the team, I don’t take it for granted, and I’ll work as hard as I can to prove that I can be on this team,” Abreu said. “I don’t want to leave anyone with a doubt that I can be a Major League player.”