Albert Abreu reached the service time milestone on Wednesday that saw him exhaust his eligibility to be ranked as one of the Yankees’ top prospects by MLB.com. The hard-throwing right-hander has been riding the Scranton Shuttle this season and contributing to the Yankees with valuable innings that help protect a well-worked bullpen. Let’s take a look at how Abreu reached this point with the Yankees and where he is likely to go moving forward.
Following Gary Sanchez’s breakout performance in late 2016, the Yankees decided to move veteran catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros for a pair of right-handed pitchers, Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzmán. After one year in the system, Guzmán was moved to the Miami Marlins as part of the trade for Giancarlo Stanton. Abreu remained with the Yankees and was added to the 40-man roster in order to be protected from the Rule-5 draft ahead of the 2018 season.
Abreu originally signed with the Astros as a mid-level pitching prospect who quickly added significant velocity as he matured in their system. By the time the Yankees acquired, him he was routinely hitting the upper 90’s with his fastball while making progress on a pair of secondary pitches. Scouts still saw more of a thrower than a pitcher but Baseball America ranked Abreu as the Yankees ninth-best prospect heading into 2017. He reached as high as the 77th best prospect in baseball during the 2018 season.
Abreu made it to High-A in 2017, and put together a respectable campaign. Unfortunately he was unable to take the next step in 2018, and after missing some time with an injury, repeated the High-A level with the exception of a one-game cameo with Double-A Trenton. In what would turn into a trend, he saw his walk rate rise upwards to 4.0 BB/9.
Abreu’s walk rate has continued to climb over the last few years as he’s struggled to excel at any level of the system. His command and control issues allowed opponents to zero in on pitches that get too much of the plate. Still, scouts have continued to love Abreu’s fastball, curveball and changeup mix.
As a member of the 40-man roster, Abreu was made part of the Yankees’ alternate training site during the COVID shortened season. This put him in position to make his major league debut in 2020, as he recorded 1.1 innings across two outings. He pitched very much to the scouting reports, striking out a pair of batters, walking a pair of batters and giving up a home run on a pitch that got a little too much of the plate.
During the offseason, it was reported early and often that Abreu was out of minor league options, after he spent three seasons on the 40-man roster. Only in the days before spring training was it reported that Abreu qualified for a fourth minor league option year based on the number of days he spent on active rosters throughout his minor league career.
With that fourth minor league option year in hand, the Yankees have had Abreu riding up and down early and often this year. The team has called him up to the big leagues on nine separate occasions through the first four months of the season. The results have been mixed, as Abreu has a 4.91 ERA in 18 innings, though that figure is mostly marred by one disastrous outing on July 29th (outside of it, Abreu’s ERA is a more palatable 1.96). Overall, he continues to allow 4.42 BB/9, but opponents are hitting just .180 off him, contributing to a strong 1.09 WHIP.
Abreu does not look like he will develop into the starting pitcher he was once viewed as. In 2018, when he was ranked as a top-100 prospect in all of baseball, scouts saw a player with the tools to be a solid number two starter down the road if he maximized his ability. Struggles with control seemingly have pushed his future to the bullpen. Abreu will be out of minor league options following this season, which means the Yankees will have to decide if he has done enough to earn an everyday look at the major league level in 2022.
As Albert Abreu graduates from the prospect ranks, Triple-A Scranton catcher Donny Sands enters the rankings at the Yankees’ new 30th-best prospect. Sands was an eighth round draft pick in 2015, and after a strong debut season was ranked among the Yankees’ best prospects in 2016 and parts of 2017. As the Yankees transitioned him to the catcher position, his bat also struggled for several years.
He has broken out this season with a career-high 13 home runs, while hitting .257/.322/.468 between Double-A and Triple-A. He has accomplished this while striking out just 34 times in 264 plate appearances this season, and earning praise from his coaches and observers.
Albert Abreu has graduated from the ranks of Yankees prospects due to his role in the bullpen. Called up and down frequently, Abreu is not on track to be the starter the team once envisioned him to be, but he is finding a way to contribute from the bullpen. He will have the rest of the season to try and convince the Yankees to keep him on the 26-man roster moving into next season.