White Sox have special slugger in Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu has given lots of reasons for White Sox manager Robin Ventura to be pleased.
Jose Abreu has given lots of reasons for White Sox manager Robin Ventura to be pleased. (USATSI)

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White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is no ordinary rookie.

Not only is Abreu 27 years old, but he also has a six-year, $68 million deal and had been playing at the highest level professionally in Cuba before defecting.

He's also far from ordinary in terms of his production, as Abreu has now set records for both home runs and RBI in his first month of play as a rookie. His prodigious power has been on display throughout the early going, as he entered Sunday ranked third in average fly ball distance behind Mike Morse and Giancarlo Stanton.

After having witnessed his walk-off grand slam Friday night, the Rays were quite impressed (via chicagotribune.com).

"He's the best player in the world ... ever ... right now," said Evan Longoria.

"Really a big, strong fellow with a controlled attitude at the plate," Joe Maddon said. "He's not just a wild swinger. You have to make good pitches or he is going to hurt you."

"This is the first time ever seeing him live, and I am impressed with his power and how he uses the whole field," David DeJesus said.

That was all before he took David Price deep Sunday (watch here) as part of a four-RBI effort. There are still a few games left in April, but already, Abreu has put together one of the most productive first months in history for a rookie.

With 10 homers and 31 RBI, Abreu is well ahead of the rest in both categories. Here are the only players in baseball history to have at least six homers and 15 RBI in their first season before May 1:

Jose Abreu, 2014, 10 HR, 31 RBI
Albert Pujols, 2001, 8 HR, 27 RBI
Alvin Davis, 1984, 7 HR, 17 RBI
Evan Gattis, 2013, 6 HR, 16 RBI
Jason Heyward, 2010, 6 HR, 19 RBI
Wally Joyner, 1986, 6 HR, 16 RBI

[Note: Some players, such as Kent Hrbek and Carlos Delgado, did so with rookie eligibility, but it wasn't in their "first" season in the majors.]

Abreu is on pace for 62 homers and 193 RBI. He's not going to maintain that pace (or is he?!?), but it illustrates just how monstrous he's been thus far. Even if he does slow down significantly, he's likely to be one of the greatest power-hitting rookies of all-time. Only 11 hitters have previously had at least 30 homers and 100 RBI in their rookie year. Here they are, along with Abreu and his current paces. We'll throw in doubles and slugging percentage just for fun.

Top rookie power hitters
Player Year HR RBI 2B SLG
Jose Abreu (*pace) 2014 62* 193* 37* .631
Albert Pujols 2001 37 130 47 .610
Mike Piazza 1993 35 112 24 .561
Mark McGwire 1987 49 118 28 .618
Jose Canseco 1986 33 117 29 .457
Ron Kittle 1983 35 100 19 .504
Walt Dropo 1950 34 144 28 .583
Al Rosen 1950 37 116 23 .543
Ted Williams 1939 31 145 44 .609
Rudy York 1937 35 103 18 .651
Hal Trosky 1934 35 142 45 .598
Wally Berger 1930 38 119 27 .614

Again, there's basically no chance Abreu comes close to his current pace. He'll go through some slumps, teammates won't be on base as often for him at times and pitchers will make adjustments to him as he continues to make his rounds through the league. That's natural.

Still, it's a pretty easy bet that he will join the above group, barring major injury. I think it's pretty reasonable to say he can hit at least 40 homers. The RBI are a bit more tricky, because it's such a team-dependent stat, but 120 doesn't seem out of reach. Remember, just as opponents will adjust to him, he'll continue adjusting to living and playing in America. He'll become familiar with opposing pitchers and how they like to work.

Regardless of where things go from here in 2014, Abreu is having a special opening month. The odds are pretty good that he'll parlay that into a special rookie season and will be one of baseball's premier power hitters for the near future. The White Sox have themselves a burgeoning star.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered the last six World Series beginning with the epic 2011 Fall Classic. The former Indiana University... Full Bio

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