White Sox prospect Eloy Jimenez: ‘I want to be the best’

The verdict will come well down the road — perhaps two, three or more years before we know who won the Cubs-White Sox trade that caught the baseball world by surprise in July.

In exchange for left-hander Jose Quintana, the Sox got the Cubs’ top prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez. And if he continues to generate the kind of buzz that’s humming around him now, the 20-year-old could make it worth the Sox’ while all by himself.

(The Sox also received right-hander Dylan Cease — the No. 64 prospect, according to MLB.com — who, because of shoulder fatigue, will not pitch for Class A Kannapolis in its playoff game Wednesday. Cease is expected to participate in the Fall Instructional League, however. The Sox also got two lesser prospects in the deal.)

Jimenez, oozing personality and confidence, visited Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday for the twofold purpose of acquainting himself with his future surroundings and keeping the media focused on the Sox’ future and not their record, which dropped to 54-83 with a 9-4 loss to the Indians, who extended their winning streak to 13 games.

Eloy Jimenez, an outfielder with the Birmingham Barons, a Class AA affiliate of the White Sox, meets with reporters Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. (AP)

Baseball’s No. 6-ranked prospect per MLB.com, Jimenez batted .312 with 19 homers, 65 RBI and a .948 OPS between Class A and AA this summer — the first part of that with the Cubs’ Class A Myrtle Beach affiliate. Over 30 games between the Sox’ Class A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham levels in August, Jimenez put a star on his season with a strong .345 average, seven homers, nine doubles, one triple and 19 RBI.

“I truly believe I can play here right now,” Jimenez, who won’t turn 21 until a few days after Thanksgiving, said through an interpreter.

Fans enduring a fifth consecutive losing season — the Sox haven’t had five of them in a row since 1944-50 — are thankful there’s hope with a restocked farm system.

“It’s a pretty picture,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I’ll be honest, a couple days ago, I sat back and started writing all the names on the board of players we have in the system . . . You start looking and go, ‘Wow, we’re poised to hopefully develop, help these guys get better and become part of the Chicago White Sox.’ The names on that board are nice to see.”

The board is front-loaded with top prospects such as Jimenez, who not only seems to have some game, but also an endearing disposition that fans will warm to.

“He’s a young man with some power; he can play the field,” Renteria said. “On top of that, we’ve watched some of his interviews, and he’s a bright young man. If he maintains the consistency in which he’s going about doing what he’s doing, he’s going to want to push that door open as soon as possible.”

With all of 73 Class AA plate appearances, he’s a ways away. But he has big plans.

“I don’t want to be just another player,” Jimenez said. “I want to be the best player.”

While Sox and Cubs fans might have fun debating how the trade will turn out, Jimenez says he doesn’t pay attention to what Quintana has done. The 2016 All-Star has been uninspiring with a 5-3 record and 4.50 ERA with the Cubs.

“He has to do whatever he has to do,” Jimenez said. “That’s not something I can control.”

Hours after Jimenez spoke, control was something lacking for Sox left-hander David Holmberg. He walked four Indians, hit one and allowed two homers to Jose Ramirez, one to Austin Jackson and a two-run double to Greg Allen, giving up six runs in the first three innings.

The Sox’ Matt Davidson hit his career-high 24th homer, a three-run shot against Danny Salazar, who didn’t finish the first. But seven Indians relievers combined for 8⅓ scoreless innings. The score held at 6-4 until Chris Beck gave up a three-run homer to Yan Gomes in the ninth.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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