Perhaps you've forgotten after a dizzying playoff run and an unexpectedly great season, but the Yankees actually did some rebuilding recently. Their highest profile deals came at the 2016 trade deadline, but their final true rebuilding move came last offseason, when they shipped Brian McCann to the Astros. They received a couple of pitching prospects in return, Jorge Guzman and Albert Abreu.
Abreu, a right-hander coming off his age-21 season, was the prize of the deal. He was well-regarded entering the season, coming in at 82nd on Baseball Prosepectus' Top 101 prospects list. Even so, he generally wasn't considered one of the Yankees' best prospects due to New York's tremendous farm system.
According to MLB Pipeline, Abreu has moved up to 7th among the Yankees' top 30 prospects. Part of that is thanks to a handful of trades that in which the Yankees sent away prospects. That said, it also is due to his solid showing in 2017.
Abreu is a power pitcher that sits in the mid-90's on his fastball, occasionally touching the upper-90's. He has three distinct secondaries, a changeup, slider, and curve, all of which MLB Pipeline rates as at least average. His main issue in his young career has been control, as he walked 58 batters in 101.2 innings in 2016. He appears to have made progress though, at least on the surface. His 3.0 BB/9 across 53 innings in 2017 signaled a significant decrease in walks and an improvement in strike-throwing.
That innings total was low, though, due to a shoulder injury that cost him a chunk of his season. Abreu went down with the ailment in early June and didn't return until the end of August. It's never a great sign when a young pitcher is dealing with shoulder problems, but he at least posted impressive numbers when he was on the field. He maintained fine run prevention figures and struk out more than a batter per inning.
We can't entirely turn the page on Abreu's 2017, however, as it hasn’t quite finished. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League and has pitched superbly, earning AFL Pitcher of the Week honors. Overall, Abreu has added 15 AFL innings to his ledger, allowing just one run on nine hits while fanning 15.
That Abreu is closing out his 2017 campaign on a strong note is a nice development. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, Abreu’s stuff has been showing as expected at the AFL, with his typical plus velocity and potentially plus breaking pitches. The Yankees surely wish he could have avoided injury in 2017, but nothing about Abreu’s actual performance this year should dull the excitement for his future.
After reaching High-A Tampa this season, Abreu will likely start either in Tampa or potentially with Double-A Trenton in 2018. Going forward, he will continue to have to answer questions about his control, as well as about his ultimate role considering he would profile as a very interesting high leverage reliever.
For now, though, Abreu slots in among the Yankees’ best starting pitching prospects behind Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Domingo Acevedo. He represents quality depth in a still great farm system, as well as another testament to Brian Cashman’s excellent work in restocking the organization with young talent.