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Scouting Yankee Prospect #12: Eric Abreu

The Yankees signed Eric Abreu on February 26th of 2002 out of the Dominican Republic. At the time, they were impressed by his advanced, "Greg Maddux like" approach but he has since become more of a power pitcher as well. It's these reasons Abreu's our Yankee's prospect #12. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

Vital Statistics
Name: Eric Abreu
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: June 2, 1983
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 170
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Perhaps it may not have been huge news when the Yankees signed Eric Abreu back in 2002, but within the organization, it couldn't have been bigger. "Abreu is a guy that the organization has been really excited about and we knew he was special," says Latin American scout and coordinator, Carlos Rios. "Since we signed him, he was incredibly high profile and we think we found something possibly great in him." But, at the time the Yankees inked Abreu to a deal, he was known as Erick Antigua and was 2 months younger. He would play two more seasons more until the organization found him out. However, it didn't seem to bother anyone considering the talent they knew they had on their hands.

No one recognized him under the name he uses today but Eric Abreu, then known as Erick Antigua, landed on U.S. soil in 2003 and played for the Gulf Coast Yankees. He ended up seeing limited action that year and was destined to be sent back to start another season there in 2004. Abreu did just that, but this time, he was dominating. Starting in the Gulf Coast, then to Staten Island, skipping low A Battle Creek and finally landing in High A ball by the time 2004 was done. The most impressive thing about that is how he just mowed down the hitters at each and every level. "We had some injuries at the end of the season we needed a fifth starter," Tampa Yankees manager, Bill Masse told PinstripesPlus.com. "We figure he could be a kid that could help us out. But, they must have really liked him to skip him right over Battle Creek."

Abreu did come up big for Tampa, dominating in his three appearances. But it wasn't his heat that impressed the organization this time, but rather his lack there of. He was admittedly worn down from his first full season and had lost some juice on his fastball. But to the amazement of the coaching staff, he was as effective as ever. "He was really only throwing around 89 MPH," said Bill Masse. "But, the way he hides the ball and the deception he has, has to be the reason for that. It is something you can't really understand until you step into the box against him." Masse also gave us an interesting comparison for Abreu, one in which he related Abreu's ability to dominate hitters with his fastball to an all-time great. "I played with Mariano Rivera, and I can see a lot of him in Eric Abreu. I know it is way out there but I really see a lot of similarities. I also think he can do what Mariano did, increasing the velocity of his fastball. He can probably bump it up by a few miles per hour I think, like what Mariano did when he was younger. The way he was able to dominate with one pitch impressed me. But, their mechanics are very, very similar. They have that same fluent motion."

Even though he had dominated in 2004, the Yankees still elected to call a meeting with Eric Abreu after the season. Despite his overall effectiveness, they wanted to make sure his worn down velocity was solely due to the effects of a full season of pitching. "It is not so much that we were concerned but just wanted to check with Eric," says Carlos Rios. "When he was down in the Dominican, he only pitched around 30 innings, so I just don't think he was used to much over that yet. But he'll be more than ready in 2005. We just see a huge future for Abreu. When we first saw him, he was like Maddux, then you come watch him one day and he's throwing 92-93 MPH. It is amazing. He has a lot of life on that fastball to go along with a very good curveball and changeup. I think he's got big things ahead of him."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2004

Tampa Yankees

2-0

0

17.0

7

6

15

1.06

2004

Staten Island

3-0

0

28.0

24

6

47

1.83

2004

GCL Yankees

1-0

2

12.1

6

2

14

1.46

2003

GCL Yankees

0-0

0

6.0

4

2

9

3.00



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup

Fastball. When the Yankees first saw Eric Abreu, they never pictured him as being what he has recently become. At first, they saw him as a Greg Maddux type, a guy who had a lot of movement on his fastball who could spot it as well as anybody. But, since then, Eric has added something new. He now has a genuine power fastball plus that movement and command that he already possessed. So, that makes him a Maddux type with heat? It sounds like a pretty dangerous combination. For a pitcher at this stage of his career, Abreu undoubtedly has plus command and a plus movement. Even when he doesn't have his best heat, he just seems to fool hitters. For instance, late in 2004, the young righty wore down in his first full season, decreasing his velocity to the high 80's. But, he still found a way to put his fastball by batter after batter. Hitters came back to the dugout wondering what happened. And, that's what Abreu is all about. His heater ranges anywhere from 91-95 MPH, sometimes cranking it up to 96 MPH. However, he is still only 170 pounds and has room for a little more velocity. But, the fact is, he is a pitcher who can afford to use his fastball far more than the average starter. This is because of his ability to fool hitters as the ball explodes on the plate. Batters say it is isn't the speed that makes them strikeout against Eric Abreu, but rather that they never got a good look at him. But, being a hard thrower certainly adds to his effectiveness.

Other Pitches. As previously stated, Eric Abreu does the majority of his business using his fastball. He attacks every hitter that steps into the box and that's what makes him as good as he is. However, that does not mean he doesn't have good secondary stuff in his arsenal. The organization also seems to like Abreu's curveball. He has developed more and more consistency with it over the past season. If he can continue being consistent, it is a borderline plus pitch. It is basically a 12 to 6 curveball that he is getting better and better with each time he takes the mound. But, he'll need to show it a little more often, not only because it will be a strong pitch for him but also because more advanced hitters will hit him if he throws too many fastballs. He's intelligent enough to know when to pull out his curveball so he should also have the intellect to know that he'll need to utilize it more often. Besides the fastball and curveball, the wiry righthander also has a changeup that he does not use all the often yet. That is one of his main focuses for improvement this spring.

Pitching. Call him Maddux plus heat. That's what the Yankees have to come to know him as. Although Abreu has a plus fastball, he works like a finesse pitcher. That is going to be an enormous advantage for him over other young, hard throwing pitchers as he moves up through the ranks. As stated earlier, he's got than incredibly, smooth, fluent motion that can lull a hitter to sleep before the fastball explodes on them. He has no major mechanical flaws so injuries are less of a concern. Eric truly knows how to pitch and attack the zone. That will be his biggest advocate despite his power fastball.

Projection. It is certainly not easy to pinpoint what level of stardom Eric Abreu could reach at this point because he simply just has not logged enough many innings. But, going on potential and what we've seen, he looks like a potential frontline starter. However, he needs to show that same potential over a full season. That's the only reason he doesn't sit much higher on the overall prospect list.

ETA. Late 2006. An early ETA it may be but the Yankees see Eric Abreu as a fast mover in their system. They showed that confidence in him in 2004 by promoting him three levels before season's end. He is most likely to be atop the Tampa Yankee staff this spring but has an outside shot at making it to AA with a big spring training. With that being said, he could spend most of his 2006 campaign in AAA Columbus with an opportunity to make it to the Bronx by September.

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