New White Sox prospect Eloy Jimenez makes strong impression

A look at one of the newest White Sox acquisition, Eloy Jimenez.
Originally published Feb. 22, 2017 from Cubs Spring training.

MESA, Ariz. — He’s only 20, in his first big-league spring-training camp, and Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez already stands out in a crowd — a broad-shouldered, 6-4, power-hitting outfielder.

He doesn’t say much, but he’s hard to miss, and he has made a strong first impression on manager Joe Maddon and the coaching staff.

It’s the last impression, however, that Jimenez is more focused on.

Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez hits a three-run homer during the All-Star Futures Game in July.

“I’m going to just keep working and hopefully break with the [big-league] team,” he said in Spanish through coach/translator Henry Blanco.

Say what? Break camp with the team? Could he seriously believe he has a shot after playing last season in the Class A Midwest League?

“I think [it’s possible],” he said. “All I’ve got to do is play good and prove to them that I’m ready to play and see what happens.”

It’s not going to happen. It wasn’t going to happen even if the Cubs actually had an opening or two in the outfield. Jimenez probably will open the season with advanced-Class A Myrtle Beach, with a chance to get as far as
Class AA Tennessee before the season is over.

But it’s not hard to see why Maddon considers this guy “a different cat, man” and why the Cubs believe in his ability to advance quickly through the system.

Well, that and his prodigious power, advanced hitting approach and athletic play in the outfield. He might have had the best catch in the 18-year history of the Futures Game in July, nearly hurdling the wall in foul territory in right to make a leaping catch.

Jimenez makes defensive play of the Futures Game.

Jimenez makes defensive play of the Futures Game.

“He’s such a special player and special kid,” farm director Jaron Madison said. “You never know [the big-league timeline] with a guy like that. There’s no reason to rush him because we’re pretty set at the big-league level. He’s an advanced player and advanced hitter. It’s just a matter of growing into his frame and seeing better pitching.”

Jimenez, signed as a Dominican amateur for $2.8 million in 2013, is the Cubs’ top-ranked prospect by Baseball America and others. He offers a reminder that the Cubs’ farm system might not be done producing impact hitters, whether they have room for them on their big-league horizon or not.

Jimenez in first big-league camp

Jimenez in first big-league camp

“Everybody thinks all of our talent’s already here,” Maddon said. “Timeout. There’s other guys coming.”

Ian Happ, a first-round pick in 2015, also is in his first big-league camp and earning early praise. Outfielder Mark Zagunis, catcher Victor Caratini and Happ got a these-guys-“can-really-hit” Twitter shoutout from special instructor Rick Sutcliffe.

But Jimenez is ranked No. 1 for good reason — he’s the guy the Cubs held back when they gave up shortstop Gleyber Torres, Jimenez’s pal, in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Torres is now the Yankees’ top-ranked prospect.

Jimenez didn’t need translation help to smile and say, “yes,” he’s happy to still be with this club.

“It was a big deal,” he said through Blanco. “After everything was clear [following the trade], I thought, ‘OK, they want me in this organization. I’m going to be the best I can be to be a better player,’ and that’s what I did.”

Jimenez hit .329 with 14 homers and a .532 slugging percentage (.901 OPS) in 112 games at Class A South Bend last year. In addition to the catch in the Futures Game at San Diego’s Petco Park, he also doubled home a run and homered off the Western Metal Supply building beyond the left-field wall.

Talk about making impressions.

“The other day, I’m just sitting in my office, just listening to music, just doing some stuff,” Maddon said. “He came in, sat down, said hello, wanted to reintroduce himself to me to make sure that I knew who he was. He didn’t say that, but that’s what I gleaned from it.

“We had a nice conversation. He believes he belongs here.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

 

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