ORLANDO -- Without question, as Jose Abreu acclimates to the majors next season, he’ll draw comparisons to his countrymen Yaisel Puig.
Whereas Puig -- who finished second for the National League rookie of the year award Monday after he received votes on all but one of 30 ballots -- played 40 minor-league games before he was thrust into the spotlight, Abreu won’t be afforded the same opportunity.
Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68-million deal earlier this month, has been earmarked for the middle of the order as the White Sox hope to reverse a dismal offense performance in 2013. But Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said the training wheels for Puig had more to do with rust than an internal belief he wouldn’t be ready for the limelight.
Because Puig is also four years Abreu’s junior, the Dodgers knew they could take their time before they unleashed the outfielder, who had a .319/.391/.534 line with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs in 432 plate appearances in 2013.
“He came with a lot of talent, a lot of tools,” Colletti said. “But he hadn’t played for a while. So we had to be patient with him. He’s still got a rough edge or two that he’s got to continue to work on, like a lot of young players do.”
One area the White Sox hope to rely on is Abreu’s maturity, an aspect Puig was at times questioned for this summer. The White Sox, Abreu’s agent, and several scouts all believe Abreu to be extremely mature and well suited to handle a difficult acclimation to a new culture.
Abreu’s wife was a doctor in Cuba and when he was asked why he to chose wear No. 79 for the White Sox, the first baseman said his mother picked it for him when he was younger. On the day he signed with the White Sox, Abreu, who is now living in Miami, cried when he reached the field and saw welcome signs on the scoreboard.
The reason for his tears?
Abreu said he wished his mother could have been there to partake in the day’s events.
“(My family is) the great driving force behind me sitting here today being a big leaguer,” Abreu said through a translator. “I can’t talk enough about how much they have helped me throughout this process and how much it means for me for them to be here.”
Abreu -- who Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday “should produce immediately” -- should also receive assistance in the clubhouse this season from teammates. His agent, Barry Praver, believes Abreu is in a good situation with fellow Cubans Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez on the roster.
“The way I best describe (Abreu) is a professional,” Praver said. “Jose will be fine in Chicago. I certainly think it’s a plus that he’s got some of his fellow countrymen with him on the same team in terms of helping him assimilate into our culture.”
The White Sox would love nothing better than for Abreu to adjust to the majors as well as Puig has. Even though he didn’t make his debut until June 3, Puig made quite the impact as the Dodgers went 66-38 afterward and saw an increase in runs from 3.5 per game before he arrived to 4.2 the rest of the season.
“In his defense, he played a couple of months in the minor leagues after not playing for a while and he turned out to be the talk of baseball for half a season,” Colletti said.