Certain player types emerge every February and March as fantasy baseball owners prepare for their drafts and auctions. The specific players who fill those roles change, but the roles themselves carry over from year to year. Identifying the players who fit each archetype before you sit down to build your team can help you find hidden value and avoid impending busts. We’ll take a look at the 10 most identifiable, enduring archetypes in our Player Profile series. In this edition, we consider The Boring Star: Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox.
There aren’t many guarantees in advance of a fantasy draft, but I do feel good about this one: Whoever takes Jose Abreu in your league won’t be excited about it. Sure, that owner will be happy to get Abreu on his or her team. He’s got an average draft position in the low-40s for a reason. Still, Abreu isn’t the player that inspires fist pumps or a paroxysm of groans from the rest of the room. He’s steady. He’s solid. He’s boring. And he’s one of the most underappreciated players in the league.
Abreu has played for full seasons in the majors since defecting from Cuba. He carries a .301/.359/.524 slash line in his career, with 124 homers and 410 RBI. Since entering the majors, he’s ranked 14th in batting average (tied with Mike Trout), 35th in OBP (tied with George Springer and Nelson Cruz) and 13th in slugging percentage (sandwiched between a couple of stars from the other side of town, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo). He’s 13th in homers and fifth in RBI, the latter all the more impressive considering the White Sox have ranked better than 20th in runs scored once in his four seasons. That year, 2014, they scored exactly one more run than league average. Not only has Abreu been one of the most consistent, high-level performers of the last four seasons, he has done so amidst an ugly team context.
Career stats are one thing, but fantasy owners also rightly want to see season-to-season consistency. Abreu’s worst year was 2016, when he hit .293/.353/.468 with 25 homers, 100 RBI and a 124 OPS+, career-worst marks in the last four categories. His career lows in batting average and OBP came in 2015 when he hit .290 with a .347 OBP, but he slugged .502 that year, belted 30 homers, drove in 101 runs, and notched a 135 OPS+. Last year, Abreu put up the second-best season of his career, hitting .304/.354/.552 with 33 homers, 102 RBI and a 140 OPS+. The guy is consistent.
In fact, we can take four key stats that get at the heart of who Abreu is to best illustrate his consistency. Since 2014, there have been 28 instances of a player hitting thresholds of a .290 batting average, 25 homers, 100 RBI and a 124 OPS+. Abreu owns four of them, or 14.3%. Here’s where I remind you that he has been in the league for four seasons. The only other players with multiple such campaigns are Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Miguel Cabrera, all of whom have two. Creating groups based on somewhat-arbitrary thresholds can be a cheap way to elevate a certain player, but there’s nothing cheap about floors of .290, 25 homers and 100 RBI, nor one that says you’ve been at least 24% better in OPS than league-average every season of your career, especially when it’s stats like those your prospective fantasy owners are targeting when they draft you. Abreu always delivers, or at least he has in every season of his career to this point.
There’s nothing exciting about Abreu. He’s not going to hit 40 homers. He’s not going to drive in 130 runs. He’s not going to win a batting title. He’s not on a good team. What’s more, take a look at the players around him by ADP. Andrew Benintendi? He’s an up-and-coming potential star on a team that could score 800 runs. Rhys Hoskins? He hit 18 homers in about one-third of a season last year. Kenley Jansen is the best closer in baseball, and teammates Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray are potential aces in the fantasy game. The boredom of Abreu is even more conspicuous thanks to his company.
You know what else Abreu is? A guaranteed source of great, but not quite elite, power numbers at a position where fantasy owners generally need power to win, along with plus rates—no matter which rate category your league uses—at a reasonable price. Yes, that’s boring. I nearly fell asleep writing that sentence. It’s also the mark of a winner. Forget about the adjective, and focus on the noun. Abreu is 2018’s Boring Star.