It's a negative comparison I would rather not make, but there's a stark contrast between watching Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu. Where I try to look past what I'm seeing with Garcia, and think about the lauded natural abilities that are lying behind the obvious deficiencies, with Abreu, it's a struggle to see where the flaws that scouts discussed all winter are when he's doing everything so well.
The struggle is supposed to arrive when some hot young stud comes along and busts Abreu inside with top-level velocity. Twins Opening Day starter Ricky Nolasco is not going to be the ultimate test of this principle, but he's not exactly Jason Vargas (I will never tire of using him in negative comparisons). He ran it up no faster than 92 mph at any point to Abreu, which the big man responded to with three line drives to each an every part of the outfield. And when Casey Fien came in, Abreu cracked another line drive off him too for good measure.
He swung and missed once.
Raw strength is a powerful tool. Raw strength that is constantly making contact is an irresistible weapon.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing was that Nolasco's early attempts were clearly based in trying to move all over the plate and see if Abreu could handle it. His first pitch to him was a 91 mph fastball up and off the outside edge of the plate, which Abreu immediately went with and pushed to the right field wall.
The next at-bat, Nolasco looked to catch Abreu looking outside--an effective trick against Dayan Viciedo--and tried to bust him with sinking fastballs low and in. The first effort was Abreu's only whiff of the day, but he cooly watched the next two offerings miss the edge of the plate despite being behind in the count. When Nolasco went to the well once more, Abreu crouched and shortened up to flip a low pitch into center, still hit hard enough that it shorthopped Josh Willingham in left.
He probably hit the ball harder in his other two at-bats, or at least equally so. And going forward, those last two at-bats will probably be louder since they were of the garden variety mistakes over the heart of the plate type of offerings. Unless someone starts upping the ante, challenging Abreu down the heart of the plate probably will produce violent results as well.
Phil Hughes pitches Wednesday and the back of the Royals rotation comes in after that, so Abreu may not get any upper-level challenges until the very end of the week. Yet we have already seen the type of instantaneous adjustments and awareness that we've waited years to see out of any Sox homegrown bat. Who wants to ever watch a prospect hit again?
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