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Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Jose Abreu's swing looks great

By Keith Law

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago White Sox signed Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract with some expectation that he'd be in their lineup this season, the sooner the better given the size of the investment. Given what I saw from him on Tuesday afternoon at Camelback Ranch, I think they had good cause for such optimism, as Abreu looks like he can really hit.

Abreu's swing is very clean and pretty -- he has no load, but explodes to the ball as if he'd cocked his hands much further back, so while his path to the ball is extremely short, he has the hand and wrist strength to hit for power. He's very rotational but gets a little uphill, so he may get on top of the ball too often (top-spinning the ball into the ground), and he had some trouble on Tuesday recognizing changes of speeds, striking out once on a slider where he was way out in front. But his swing is simple and he should be able to hit for average and for power even if he's not walking much right away.

Abreu also was more trim than I expected and played a very capable first base, looking agile and showing good instincts. We'll see how he looks against better pitching later this spring -- the Rangers rolled the revenant Joe Saunders out to the mound, followed by the tattered remains of Tommy Hanson's shoulder -- but the early signs have to have White Sox brass excited.

" The Diamondbacks are going to regret giving up so soon on Adam Eaton, as Eaton is up to his old tricks: Taking good at-bats, hitting the ball hard, running well (a solid 60 on the 20-80 scale), and playing an above-average center field, including an 8-3 double play on Tuesday that required him to throw a strike to first base. He's just what the Sox needed -- a high on-base guy for the top of their lineup -- and adding him and Abreu to their offense this year already makes them look more potent.

" Avisail Garcia showed his usual impatience, hacking at the first pitch he saw on the day and then again at the third pitch, which follows with his history of having tools, at least on the hitting side, that are ahead of his instincts or his feel. Garcia's swing is a little long, as he loads his hands up behind his rear shoulder, but he does have strong forearms and has the rotational swing to hit for power. His approach at the plate is not major league caliber, however, and I think he'd benefit from time in the minors that he's not likely to get after he hit .304 in his time with the White Sox last year.

He's a fringe-average runner who can throw but isn't going to add much value on the bases or on defense, so he needs to hit, and I'm concerned that his lack of plate discipline is going to hinder his ability to develop into an above-average hitter with power.

" Marcus Semien played most of the game at third base, and to some extent reaffirmed concerns about his ability to hit at the highest level. The biggest issue is with his swing, specifically how high his back elbow is when he loads. He's longer to the ball and cuts through pitches up in the zone, pitches where he'd be better off keeping his hands inside but can't because of where his elbow starts. He's a patient hitter, seeing 17 pitches in his three at-bats, but converting that into offensive production won't be easy.

Semien was replaced by a longtime favorite of mine, Matt Davidson, who lined a home run into left-center off lefty Pedro Figueroa. The White Sox have a lot of flexibility this year, but Davidson starting at third with Semien as a utility guy who can fill in at short, second and third seems like the ideal alignment.