White Sox’ Class AA manager says Eloy Jimenez’s defense will play in majors

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Eloy Jimenez. (AP)

ARLINGTON, Texas — All — and we mean all — the buzz about the anticipated major-league arrival of outfielder Eloy Jimenez is about his bat.

But what about his defense? The reason you don’t hear much about it is that there isn’t much to talk about.

Jimenez, 21, is a corner outfielder who’s glovework — or lack thereof — left the Cubs seeing him as another Kyle Schwarber type: a big bat whose defense made him best suited for designated-hitter duty in the American League. It might have helped Cubs president Theo Epstein let go of Jimenez when he acquired left-hander Jose Quintana in a stunning trade between the North Side and South Side teams almost a year ago.

Ryan Newman, who was Jimenez’s manager at Class AA Birmingham until Jimenez recently was promoted to Class AAA Charlotte, wants you to know Jimenez isn’t all bad in the field. If fact, he sees the 6-4, 220-pounder as an average defensive outfielder with the potential to be above-average.

‘‘He’s a better athlete than you might think,’’ Newman said. ‘‘Defensively, he’s made a lot of improvements.’’

Jumps and routes first and throwing next are the areas Jimenez, who started the season in right but has played left of late, has paid the most attention to in early work before games and in tracking fly balls during batting practice.

‘‘I hope in the future I can play outfield all my career,’’ Jimenez said Friday. ‘‘I feel more in the game. When I’m DH-ing, I don’t know, sometimes you get distracted too much. When you play defense, you’re more in the game. You feel the game more.’’

Newman said Jimenez is doing something about that.

‘‘He really worked his tail off when he was here,’’ Newman said.

Jimenez’s arm, which Cubs manager Joe Maddon cited as a concern, ‘‘is coming along,’’ Newman said. ‘‘It’s actually better than [Jimenez] thinks it is.’’


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Jimenez talked during spring training about his desire to be a complete player and speaks confidently of what he can do.

‘‘Everybody talks about his offense, but he wants to be an all-around player,’’ said Newman, who suspects Jimenez is aware of what the Cubs thought of his defense.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ Newman said. ‘‘Eloy is very intelligent, and he knows what’s going on around him. He’s aware of what is being said about him. I would not be surprised if he heard that and took it to heart. That may have played a part in his work ethic.

‘‘His bat is so advanced and you hear about his bat so much that his defensive side of the ball has taken a backseat to it. I would not classify him as a DH at all.’’

And what about a bat that has him ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline?

‘‘Obviously, he has power and has the ability to hit the ball to all fields,’’ Newman said. ‘‘His at-bat adjustments are incredible. Usually it takes a kid his age a certain amount of at-bats to figure it out, and you’re hoping they make the adjustments day to day. But we’ve literally watched him make adjustments pitch to pitch.

‘‘And he’s a great teammate, too. He’s communicating, talking to his teammates about what this pitcher is doing, letting guys know what that pitcher did to him after his at-bat. He’s always asking the right questions.

‘‘His pregame work is outstanding. He has a routine, and he sticks with it. You wouldn’t know if he’s 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 after a game, and that’s the kind of mindset you need to succeed in this game.’’

There are no such things as sure things in baseball, ‘‘but he’s as close to [a can’t-miss] as you can get,’’ Newman said. ‘‘He’s special.’’

Contributing: Steve Greenberg

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