Impressive Abreu still trending upward

Jose Abreu is the only player to win AL player and rookie of the month in the same month twice. Scott W. Grau/Icon SMI

CHICAGO -- For those still holding out, believing it’s not practical to predict greatness for a player with only four months of major league experience, it is time to give in to the reality.

Barring injury, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has a chance to put together some offensive seasons rarely seen at this level. If he fails to at least finish as the runner-up in the MVP voting at some point in his career, it would be a shock. Heck, if he doesn’t win an MVP award, there are many who would be surprised.

Abreu was given the rare monthly double on Monday when he was named the American League player of the month as well as the rookie of the month for July.

The rookie of the month award has been in existence only since 2001, but since then, Abreu is the only player ever to win both honors in a calendar month two separate times. He also was player of the month and rookie of the month in April.

It is the third time Abreu has been named rookie of the month, the fourth time a player has won that many honors in a season. Ichiro Suzuki won it four times in 2001, Jason Bay won it three times in 2004 and Mike Trout won it four times in 2012.

Suzuki is essentially a lock for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Trout is young (he turns 23 this week) but certainly pointed in the direction of Cooperstown, and while Bay might not ever make it to induction weekend, he was still a three-time All-Star who finished in the top 12 of MVP voting twice, not to mention his rookie of the year award.

As for White Sox players who have matched Abreu’s two player of the month awards, it has only happened three other times in team history. The player of the month award has a little more history to it, having been in existence in the National League since 1958 and the American League since 1974.

Frank Thomas won two player of the month awards twice (1994 and 1996), while Albert Belle won two during the 1998 season. Both of those sluggers were known for some eye-popping production during their careers.

While the debate really isn’t whether or not Abreu will have a productive career, it now seems to be all about how good he can really become. Abreu admits that he is still in the process of getting comfortable in a new league after playing in Cuba the previous 10 years.

“Yes, every day I feel more comfortable,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “And I’m able to concentrate a lot better, which allows to continue to compete for the team, which is what we’re here for.”

Imagine what will happen two or three years down the road when Abreu grows more accustomed to American League pitchers and opposing ballparks. What kind of player will we be in store for then?

“You can get better, but I don’t think he’s going to be where he will hit .500,” manager Robin Ventura said. “His numbers are pretty damn good right now. The consistency of going through the year, he might not have a stretch where he struggles quite as much.

“There is a limit of what guys are going to hit, statistically. But within the game of driving in runs and things like that, he’s pretty good and he’s going to continue to get better in that in-game stuff. That’s just part of being in the big leagues for the experience of it.”

Among the many rave reviews Abreu has received, one has been his ability to overcome adjustments pitchers make against him. Amazingly, the rookie said he hasn’t even noticed.

“I really don’t know the adjustments that they made on me, I just know that I concentrate on myself,” he said. “I concentrate on my strength when I go there. I’m sure they’re making adjustments and things like that but I try to stay with what I do well.”