As promised, the White Sox announced promotions of 16 minor-league prospects to higher levels Thursday.
Outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3-ranked prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, whose bat appears to be more than major-league ready right now, was promoted to Class AAA Charlotte. Center fielder Luis Robert, ranked 24th and looking like the best combination of speed, power and athleticism of any prospect in a much-improved farm system, was promoted to high Class A Winston-Salem.
Getting these two, as well as 14 others closer to the major-league roster, is what White Sox fans probably needed to hear after Thursday’s game against the Athletics was postponed to Friday as part of a doubleheader.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of this organization,’’ director of player development Chris Getz said.
Right-handed closer Ian Hamilton and catcher Seby Zavala also were promoted to Charlotte with Jimenez.
Promoted to Class AA Birmingham: Right-hander Dylan Cease; lefty Bernardo Flores; right-handers Matt Foster and Zach Thompson; and outfielders Luis Basabe, Joel Booker and Alex Call.
Promoted to Winston-Salem with Robert: Outfielder Luis Gonzalez; right-handers Tyler Johnson, Blake Battenfield and Lincoln Henzman; and infielder Laz Rivera.
Jimenez, 21, and Cease, 22 — the No. 52 ranked prospect — were acquired last July 13 with two others from the Cubs for left-hander Jose Quintana.
Jimenez batted .317/.368/.556 with 10 home runs, 42 RBI and 15 doubles in 53 games at Birmingham after a late start because of a pectoral muscle strain. Cease has performed as well as any Sox pitching prospect, going 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71⅔ innings for Winston-Salem.
“Eloy has done nothing but hit with us,’’ Getz said. “He’s driving the ball to all fields with power. The hit tool is very good, as well. He’s hammering fastballs. Talking about maturity, he’s definitely beyond his years in how he handles the game as a whole.
Certainly when he steps into the box, it seems that you’re looking at a guy that plays in the big leagues already, and he’s not. He’s controlling the strike zone, he’s driving the ball, he’s making good decisions. We’ll see what he can do up at Charlotte.”
Jimenez is the biggest name of the bunch and the player whose anticipated timeline to the majors has generated the most speculation and anticipation. His promotion puts him a step away.
Getz believes Jimenez could excel right now but sees a benefit from facing more experienced, perhaps craftier Class AAA pitchers who feature more offspeed stuff than what he saw at the fastball-heavy Class AA level.
“So it will be interesting to see how he responds with guys attacking him a little differently,’’ Getz said.
Hamilton, a closer drafted in the 11th round in 2016, had a 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances with 12 saves in Class AA.
Zavala, 24, is ranked behind 22-year-old Zack Collins, the 10th overall pick in 2016 and leading candidate as the catcher of the future, but improved defense and a .271/.358/.472 hitting line with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 56 games at Birmingham, where he split time behind the plate and as designated hitter with Collins, qualified him for the promotion, Getz said.
“He handles a pitching staff like a major leaguer,’’ Getz said.
NOTE: The doubleheader Friday begins at 3:10 p.m. The originally scheduled game will begin at 7:10 or 30 minutes following the conclusion of Game 1. Fans with tickets for Friday’s originally scheduled game can attend both games.
Tickets for Thursday’s postponed game are now gift certificates, which means they can be applied to future games.