By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) You might think that after winning the Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year award that White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu would be satisfied with his season, but that type of thinking isn’t ever part of the Cuban defector’s attitude.
“I really need to work hard to be better,” Abreu said through a translator. “I want to be more disciplined in my work habits.’
One of the remarkable aspects of Abreu’s first MLB season is that he became the first rookie to finish in the top five of all the Triple Crown departments in his respective league. Abreu also led all of baseball in slugging percentage (.581), becoming only the second White Sox player to accomplish that feat (Dick Allen in 1974).
The bar has been set higher for the 27-year-old Abreu going forward after he hit .317 with 36 home runs and 107 RBs. He missed two weeks with a bad ankle and still managed to put up MVP-type numbers.
“I don’t like talking about my numbers,” Abreu said. “I just know the team can be better, and so can I. I want to thank the White Sox organization and my teammates for making me feel very comfortable this year. Words cannot describe how proud I am to be here.”
Chicago spent $68 million over six years to outbid five other teams for Abreu last fall. Executive vice president of baseball operations Kenny Williams did the scouting on the Cuban slugger in the workouts he had for major league clubs in the summer of 2013. Williams said he would stake his reputation on Abreu becoming an impact player, and Abreu made him look smart.
Abreu had never played more than 95 games in a season in Cuba. His power numbers went down after the All-Star break (only six homers), but Abreu raised his batting average by a total of 20 points in the same period, showing adjustments few rookies have been capable of.
The Sporting News’ award is given by the the vote of the players.
“It means a lot to me that I was given the award by the players,” Abreu said. “I am very humble and want to thank everyone who voted for me.”
Abreu is the 11th White Sox player to win the award and the first since Gordon Beckham in 2009. The Baseball Writers of America will give out the prestigious Jackie Robinson award in each league for Rookie of the Year on Nov. 10. Abreu is certainly the favorite to win that award as well. He was also named by Baseball America as their rookie award winner last week.
Although not the front-runner in the AL MVP race, Abreu is expected to be in the top five when the writers announce the award next month. Mike Trout of the Angels is the favorite to win the MVP this year.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.