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Winston Abreu’s Shot

When Winston Abreu reached the Majors last season he did in part because of an out-clause in his contract, but also because he earned the trip. Disney executives were not in charge of his Major League stint, and after six innings and eight runs allowed, Abreu was on his way back to the minors.

Abreu is a frail 6’2” righty from the Dominican. His middle name is Leonardo, but it may as well be Quada. Since joining the Braves Gulf Coast League team in 1994 as a 17-year-old, Abreu has spent time with the following organizations:

Kansas City
Chicago (NL)
Los Angeles (NL)
Tampa Bay

An avid traveler, Abreu has also spent time in Mexico and Japan. All told, Abreu has appeared in 210 Triple-A games, thrown nearly 300 innings and done so while striking out 11.5 and walking 4 per nine. Abreu’s 44 innings in the Majors are ugly. Kissed with gopheritis that doesn’t appear in the minors and smells of small sample size, Abreu has a 7.31 ERA and 5.31 xFIP. Nevertheless, CHONE still believes Abreu has the wherewithal to post a 3.73 FIP this season.

Most cases like these involve a guy with no stuff who makes his living in Triple-A by working the margins and tricking batters of lower competence into chasing garbage. Abreu isn’t like most cases. He has velocity and even an excellent slider, but he lacks fastball command. Abreu’s inability to locate the heater makes it difficult to crack the whip with his slider in favorable counts. This is nothing new for high-strikeout, high-walk relievers. In recent years, pitchers like Grant Balfour, Matt Thornton, and David Aardsma have taken a similar recipe, turning Sam’s Choice into champagne for their respective teams.

Can Abreu take that step? Probably not. His 33rd birthday arrives in early April; could all of those teams really be wrong about one player? Still, it’s hard to root against him. When Abreu was designated for assignment by the Indians last season, he rejected their optional assignment to Triple-A and chose to become a free agent so he could sign with an organization that he felt treated him fairly. That doesn’t seem unusual, but this a career Triple-A journeyman who decided against 40-man pay in favor of respect. You don’t see that every day.