Willie Abreu Shows The Natural Power To Excel
Robust statistics at low Class A Asheville always invite skepticism. That’s particularly true for a lefthanded hitter like Willie Abreu, because it’s 297 feet down the right-field line and 320 feet to right-center at cozy McCormick Field.
Last season, the outfielder hit .283/.321/.463 for Asheville with 32 doubles, 14 home runs and 78 RBIs in 119 games.
"Those are not Asheville numbers,” farm director Zach Wilson said. "Those are anywhere-he-plays numbers. And the reason I say that is he has some of the best raw power in our organization.”
Underscoring Wilson’s contention, Abreu hit .275 with a .737 OPS at home last year and .291 with an .835 OPS on the road.
Abreu solely played right field last year, but at high Class A Lancaster this season, Wilson said Abreu, 23, will also play left field. His routes are good, and his arm is solid-average.
The Rockies drafted Abreu in the sixth round in 2016 out of Miami. He hit .235/.318/.394 at short-season Boise with six homers in 56 games before moving up to Asheville where he finished second in the South Atlantic League with 40 stolen bases while being caught just nine times.
Abreu is an average runner but has good instincts on the bases and takes very aggressive leads. That aggression can be a pitfall at the plate when Abreu, whom Wilson said has "the tools to be a major threat in the middle of the lineup,” falls in the trap of trying to use his power to pull the ball.
"It’s about understanding that you’ve got enough natural power to use the whole field without trying to do different things,” Wilson said. "You can be under control of your swing and under control of your body and you can hit the ball out all over the place, line to line.
"So when he recognizes that it’s OK to use that whole left side of the field with more consistency, that’s when it’s really all got a chance to come together.”
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• After not pitching last season, righthander David Hill was throwing fastballs off a mound in mid-March in his comeback from August 2016 surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
• Zach Osborne returned to the organization as the Rookie-level Grand Junction hitting coach. The shortstop, a 2015 fourth-rounder from San Diego, played five seasons in the Rockies’ system before being released in spring training last year.