GLENDALE, Ariz. — We are getting closer to the much-anticipated debut of White Sox outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez, and the hype isn’t going away anytime soon.
In fact, it already is starting to rev up in the first week of spring training.
‘‘I look at him as the Babe Ruth of our generation,’’ said Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech, who was teammates with Jimenez in the minor leagues.
Babe Ruth. Lofty praise, indeed.
The Sox hardly can contain themselves as they wait for Jimenez to make his major-league debut. It likely will happen in the last week of April — after the Sox have guaranteed themselves an extra year of contract control.
The Sox need Jimenez to be successful after infielder Yoan Moncada, a top prospect when the team acquired him from the Red Sox in the trade for left-hander Chris Sale, didn’t play to lofty expectations last season and
Kopech, who acquired in the same deal, was lost for the 2019 season to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
The Sox have other prospects coming, and Jimenez is leading a wave of anticipation around Camelback Ranch.
‘‘All I know is that we’re very, very fortunate in the position that we’re in right now with the talent that we have across the board,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘We’re just looking for that ultimately to come to fruition. We want that flower to bloom. Hopefully this year will be the beginning of that, and we’ll have a lot of fun this summer.”
Jimenez, who along with his agent voiced displeasure about not getting called up while he was destroying minor-league pitching last season, is scaling that back this season. Appearing calm and relaxed in his first group interview of the spring — and conducting it in English with a translator, who wasn’t needed, by his side — the 6-4 slugger said he is at ease with whatever the Sox want.
‘‘I’m not going to be that disappointed,’’ he said of the probability that he won’t break camp with the team, no matter how well he performs this spring. ‘‘I was a little bit [disappointed]. That was last year. I accept it.’’
Jimenez seems anything but downtrodden, smiling and mixing it up with teammates around the batting cage. He is in improved physical shape, too, after changing his diet.
‘‘More broccoli, less burgers,’’ he said.
In holding him back last season, the Sox said they wanted Jimenez to improve his defense. He has done that, player-development director Chris Getz said. Jimenez won’t be a Gold Glover, but his defense is acceptable for left field.
‘‘Solid outfielder,’’ Getz said. ‘‘He has good instincts out there. He bought into his pregame work last year, and he has improved on his routes. He knows where to throw the ball.’’
And his bat is more than long ball or nothing.
‘‘I’m confident that the bat is going to play,’’ Getz said. ‘‘He’s a guy who is going to hit for average, as well as power. He’s very comfortable in the box. When you have guys who can drive the ball to all fields, it’s a pretty good sign.’’
And who can hit it a long way.
‘‘I’ve seen him mishit balls [over fences] down the right-field line and hit balls that would be in the upper deck in major-league stadiums,’’ Getz said.
Asked how he would try to get Jimenez out, Kopech said: ‘‘I don’t know. I’d just try to get him off the plate. I’ve seen that guy hit about everything as far as anyone can hit it, so I don’t know if there’s a pitch you could get by him.
‘‘Very smart hitter, very well-rounded when gets to the plate. He’s very calm, doesn’t seem like he’s out of place at any point, no matter who’s on the mound. Very impressive to watch.’’
And everyone is watching.
‘‘It’s not pressure for me because I don’t really think about it,’’ Jimenez said. ‘‘I just try to work hard and be ready for the moment. Assuming I get there, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing all my career.’’