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Rockies prospect Willie Abreu is a big slugger with potential

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Abreu is Purple Row Prospect No. 26 in the pre-season ranking

26. Willie Abreu (169 points, 19 ballots)

Willie Abreu is the sort of dude who looks like he’s ready to do bad things to baseballs. The 6’4”, 225 lb lefty corner outfielder has drawn plenty of comparisons to certain current Yankees sluggers, but he has yet to produce the level of swattage that would make national scouts swoon.

The 22-year-old, a 6th round pick in 2016, was assigned directly to Short Season A Boise in his draft year. With the Hawks, Abreu’s .235/.318/.394 line might look pedestrian, but the Northwest League’s pitcher-friendly environment meant that batting line was a 98 wRC+ campaign. In full season ball with Low-A Asheville in 2017, Abreu’s rate stats improved to .283/.321/.463 over 512 plate appearances. That included 52 extra base hits and 40 steals—quite surprising for a man of his size—and a 124 wRC+.

There were some warts—Abreu was older than league average and he struck out 18.2% of the time—but he actually hit better on the road, so his numbers weren’t buoyed by Asheville’s notorious lefty park factor. He started off slow for the Tourists, but he hit .312/.364/.513 in the season’s second half to catch PuRP voters’ attention.

Look below if you want to see Abreu hitting a ball really far:

Baseball Prospectus listed Abreu among their top 20 Rockies prospects last month. Here’s Steve Givarz on Abreu:

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds . . . you wouldn’t expect him to be a plus runner, but he glides all around and is a threat anytime he reaches base. Unfortunately, Abreu doesn’t have the instinctual reads to play center, so he will have to settle in as a right fielder, which isn’t an issue given his plus throwing arm. The raw power is plus, but the issue will still be how it will play when paired with his hit tool. The swing can be quite long and loopy, and can invoke visions of a large man chopping wood, but he spreads the ball all around and with his speed can reach base without hitting the ball hard.

Abreu’s physical tools make it easy to dream on his potential, but there certainly are still enough holes in his game that it’s also hard to make him a high probability to succeed. I ultimately fell on the intrigued side of the debate, slotting Abreu in at 29 on my personal ballot. He’ll have another friendly hitting environment in 2018 at Lancaster, so perhaps Abreu can build on his 2017 campaign and spring into consensus prospect status.