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José Abreu’s struggles are making the panic button bigger and bigger

Watching José Abreu in his first season as an Astro has been anything but fun.

Minnesota Twins v Houston Astros Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

So far, through the Astros’ first 60 games of 2023, José Abreu’s big contract is looking like a mess. As their biggest offseason acquisition, Abreu was signed as a free agent for three years and $58.5 million but is yet to pan out as a member of the Astros.

Even though the Cuban veteran, now 36, was an absolute star in nine seasons with the White Sox, he’s looked just like an average player carrying a big contract. He’s been good enough for a -1.4 bWAR and has just hit just one home run with 23 runs batted in over 243 plate appearances.

Is it time to press the panic button with Abreu? I think so! And the answer goes beyond that. There’s not a single thing that makes me think Abreu could turn around his season slump.

He’s not showing any power. His home run percentage has decreased yearly since 2020, going from 7.3% to 0.4% this season. The same has happened to his exit velocity average, which dipped from 92.2 MPH in 2022 to 87.8 MPH in ‘23. That number concerns me a lot!

His expected stats, which measure the quality of his contact, are not that encouraging either.

  • xBA: .227
  • xSLG: .325
  • xWOBA: .244

It wasn’t a secret that Abreu was kind of trading power for contact, but this year has been more dramatic since Abreu is not hitting for contact at all. He’s striking out a lot this year based on his standards – his K% went from 16.2 percent in 2022 to 22.8 percent this season. And even though his contact percentage remains average (75.6%), he’s chasing more and more pitches.

Abreu has gotten at least two hits just once in his last 19 games and is batting .174 since May 23 (13 contests) with two extra-base hits and six RBIs. Just too little production for a man that’s supposed to be carrying the lineup.

What can the Astros do with Abreu? Unfortunately, when you’re in the first year of a big contract, there’s not too much besides praying and waiting, though working with the coaches, trying to adjust, giving him some rest, or moving him down in the lineup might be useful as well.