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Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: No. 24, Juan Abreu

24. Juan Abreu, RHP
B/T: R/R 2011 Age: 26 Ht: 6'0" Wt: 180
2010: (A+)
8 G, 15.1 IP, 8.22 ERA, 8 BB, 15 K, 5 HR
(AA): 39 G, 44.2 IP, 3.02 ERA, 4.4 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, 0.4 HR/9

Number 24 on the list is the second consecutive pitching prospect previously employed by the Royals. Juan Abreu was signed as a minor league free agent following the 2009 season. He showed tremendous strikeout rates in the Kansas City system, including a mark of 12.3 K/9 in 76 innings for their A-ball team. However, he has long been a shallow relief prospect.

Abreu's strikeout rate took a bit of a hit in AA Mississippi in 2010, yet at 9.5 K/9, it shows how great of a strikeout pitcher he is. To go along with the strikeouts is a lack of control, as his career BB/9 is 5.5. It did decrease to 4.4 at AA, which is a good sign, but he needs to continue working on it. Also, his home run rates have fluctuated wildly over the course of his career, and he has always allowed more than he needs to, but a rate of 0.4 in 2010 was great to see. If he can keep it up remains to be seen.

Abreu has a natural arm, which is a term I use for pitchers without great size that rely on torque and pure arm strength. His fastball ranges in the high-90s and blows hitters away for most of his strikeouts, but his secondary offerings leave much to be desired. Relying so heavily on the fastball has served him well thus far, but it will not get him far in the majors. I would say he needs to work on developing his breaking pitch better, but at age 26 in 2011, he seems to be about where we should expect from here on. He is an undeveloped 26-year-old reliever, and that doesn't spell success.

Abreu's recipe for making a major league team is continually lowering walk and home run rates, keeping the strikeout rate high, throwing tons of fastballs and staying healthy. How he fares once he makes a roster is not certain. Relief arms such as Abreu vary so widely that it's nearly impossible to predict his future.

Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) K/BB 2) Breaking Ball 3) MLB Debut
Destination in 2011: Majority at AAA; cup of coffee in Atlanta or sooner if injuries call for it
ETA: 2011
Ceiling: Set-up or Closer
My Prediction: Middle Relief; Brief Stints in Late Inning Roles

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.