In 2013 international signing period the Astros had the largest bonus pool after being one of the worst teams in baseball the previous year.
The Astros put their money to good use signing a lot of young, talented players. One of those players was an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republican named Albert Abreu.
He ranked eighth among Astro international free agents from the 2013-2014 signing period and received a bonus of $185,000.
Since then Abreu has been traded to the New York Yankees, progressed through the minor leagues and played in the Arizona Fall League. All while becoming one of the top pitching prospects in the Yankees system.
For Abreu, his journey began in 2014 when he made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League on May 31. He pitched a five-inning shutout allowing only one hit and striking out five batters.
The right hander continued to give solid outings with nine of his 14 outings that year going at least five innings, including two games where he went six innings.
Abreu showed the Astros that he was ready for the next level with his performance in the Dominican Summer League as he had an ERA of 2.78 while holding opposing batters to an abysmal .197 average in 68 innings of work.
After his performance in the Dominican Summer League the year prior, the Astros brought Abreu stateside to compete in rookie ball with the Greenville Astros in the Appalachian League.
There, Abreu pitched in 13 games, starting seven of them and the other four were long relief appearances.
Unlike the previous year, it was tough for Abreu to get through at least five innings accomplishing that feat in two of his starts.
In two of his starts Abreu was pulled out before competing four innings which included one where he was pulled in the first inning.
Despite the inconsistency Abreu put up solid numbers that season with a 2.51 ERA, 51 strikeouts and a .206 average against in 46 and two thirds innings.
Abreu did not have his best ‘stuff’ every outing but when he did, the right handed flame thrower was dominate.
In the eight outings where he went at least four innings Abreu gave up three earned runs and 20 hits over those 34 innings.
Despite some shaky outings in 2015, the Astros made the decision to promote Abreu to low A ball in 2016 where he played for the Quad Cities River Bandits in the Midwest league.
One aspect of Abreu’s game that might have made that decision easier for the Astros was the improvement in his fastball.
In his first two years as a pro, Abreu’s fastball hovered around 87-91 mph but in 2016 it jumped up to 93-97 mph even touching 99 mph at times.
That improvement helped the newly minted flamethrower find success as he pitched in 21 games starting 14 of them.
Even though his record was 2-8, Abreu put up a 3.50 ERA with the River Bandits in 90 innings of work and held batters to a .193 average against.
Abreu also improved his ability to go deep into the game when starting as he pitched for at least 5 innings in eight of the 14 starts he made at low A. Including an eight inning gem in which he only allowed four base runners.
The River Bandits continued to use Abreu in long relief when not starting him which resulted in Abreu going four for four in save opportunities.
Near the end of the season, the Astros felt Abreu had proven himself at the low A level and moved him up to high A where he pitched in three California League games for the Lancaster JetHawks.
Abreu started two of those games but overall his brief stint with the JetHawks did not go well as he allowed seven runs in 11 and two thirds innings.
Although, it is important to recognize that in 2016 Abreu pitched the highest amount of innings in his entire professional career. He was on the mound for 101 and two thirds in 2016 while his previous high in 2014 was 68.
However possibly the biggest part of 2016 for Abreu happened off the field when the Astros shipped Abreu and fellow right-handed pitcher Jorge Guzman to the New York Yankees for catcher Brian McCann in the offseason.
Once traded, Abreu became the Yankees number 11 overall prospect and started the season at the low A level with the Charleston River Dogs in the South Atlantic League.
However, Abreu did not stay with the River Dogs for long, after only allowing three runs in three starts over 19 and two thirds innings the Yankees decided to promote him to their high A affiliate, Tampa Yankees.
Abreu started all six games that he pitched for the Tampa Yankees and gave up 13 runs in just 23 innings of work. Four of his six starts lasted three innings or less but he was pulled in his last start due to a shoulder injury.
That injury, knocked Abreu out from June 6 to August 10, costing him a lot of his season.
During his rehab assignment, Abreu went to rookie ball where he played for the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Yankees. In the GCL, he started two games, pitched a total of 4 and two thirds innings while allowing three runs.
Finally, Abreu made his return to Tampa on August 20 and made three more starts for in high A.
He pitched 11 and one third innings and allowed three runs on six hits. His final outing was on August 31 when he went five shutout innings.
Yet because he had missed so much time the Yankees wanted Abreu to pitch in the Arizona Fall League to help get some more innings in before the start of 2018.
Abreu competed with seven other Yankee teammates on the Scottsdale Scorpions and was managed by Tampa Yankees manager, Jay Bell.
This was a familiar set up for Abreu who had worked with Bell for a brief period of time in 2017 when he pitched in Tampa.
In Arizona Abreu found a lot of success with a 2.60 ERA in 27 and two thirds innings pitched while holding opposing batters to a .219 batting average against.
Near the end of the Arizona Fall League Bell said one key to Abreu’s success was his ability to work on and eventually control his emotions on the mound.
Controling emotions on the mound and taking it one batter at a time is something that a lot of pitchers struggle with, including Yankees ace Luis Severino.