Saying major-league service time was not an issue, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn confirmed Monday what most everyone expected: that prized outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez would not be called up to the majors this month despite putting up extraordinary offensive numbers at Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte.
By keeping Jimenez in a minor-league uniform until mid-April of next season, a player some view as a budding offensive superstar will be under club contract control until 2025 instead of 2024. The Sox can’t say that issue, a by-product of the collective-bargaining agreement many say needs to change, is part of the decision. The Cubs didn’t admit as much when they held Kris Bryant back in the same way in 2015, either.
So the Sox put the Jimenez “will he or won’t he” debate to bed by saying he needs more time to polish his defense. The knock on him is the routes he takes on balls in left and right field.
“We’re not developing a 21-year-old DH,” Hahn said.
“As you’ve heard me say throughout this process, this is a year in which patience will be of the utmost importance in this rebuild. And there are times where we’re going to be tested, and this is one of those times. At this point, however, we don’t feel it makes sense for Eloy at age 21 to make an appearance at a third level this season.’’
Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, was not in Charlotte’s lineup on the last day of its season Monday. He batted .337 with 22 home runs, 75 RBI and a .961 OPS in 108 games with Birmingham and Charlotte. At Charlotte, he batted .355 with a .996 OPS in 55 games. He hits for average and for power, uses the entire field and isn’t easy to strike out.
He very well could have been the Sox’ best hitter had he played in the majors this season, and he was probably no worse than a couple of corner outfielders who saw regular playing time.
“We view him as having the potential to be a very special, impactful White Sox player for a long time,’’ Hahn said. “If we are going to err in his player development, it’s going to be on the side of patience.
“He is continuing to make progress and has had a very good season offensively. It’s our opinion that it’s in everybody’s interest in order for him to develop into the impact player we project him to be.’’
Sensing the Sox’ plan not to promote him, Jimenez declared in a Players’ Tribune article that he was “more than ready” for a promotion, and Jimenez’s agents last week said he was being held back for service-time reasons only and that they would consider filing a grievance on their client’s behalf.
“I don’t see what boxes he needs to check to be called up, except for service time,” agent Nelson Montes De Oca said.
When reached by the Sun-Times on Monday, Montes De Oca declined to comment. Hahn said he talked to Jimenez’s agents this weekend.
“[Jimenez] has heard it from me and from others,’’ Hahn said. “His agents have heard it from me. He’s very well positioned to make a significant impact at the big-league level at 22 next year.
“With regard to service time, we have a really strong track record here that speaks for itself of promoting potential impact prospects when we feel they’re ready to make that next step or are ready for that next level. You saw it the middle of last year with [Yoan] Moncada, [Reynaldo] Lopez. You saw it last September with [Lucas] Giolito. You saw it a few weeks ago with [Michael] Kopech.
“Our track record’s pretty clear on this. When we feel a player is developmentally ready to fulfill or put in the best position to fulfill and meet their ceiling, we will advance them to the next level.”
Hahn said Jimenez will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
Eloy Jimenez vs. Cubs during spring training.