GLENDALE, Ariz. — After the White Sox blew it in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, fans turned their attention to the team’s top prospect, Eloy Jimenez, as hope for the future.
Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, has raised eyebrows this spring, but not in a good way. In eight Cactus League games, he’s 3-for-23 (.130) with eight strikeouts and only one home run.
He shrugged off the numbers and said it’s nothing but a timing issue. He also emphasized that he didn’t alter his swing in any way this offseason.
“It’s going kind of a little bit tough with my timing, but I know it’s there,” Jimenez said Sunday. “It’s just that I feel a little impatient. I was, like, just a little bit anxious.”
Before spring training, Jimenez proclaimed that he wanted to “be one of the best players in the league.” That expectation hasn’t changed despite his poor performance at the plate.
Jimenez would rather make mistakes now than during the regular season. And as the Cactus League season has progressed, he said he has felt more comfortable in the box, though he went 0-for-3 on Saturday against the Rangers.
Manager Rick Renteria also isn’t concerned with Jimenez’s lack of production.
“I honestly don’t worry about the numbers,” Renteria said. “I’m more worried about how he’s going about it, what we see him doing, how he’s attacking pitches and how he’s going through his work routine. . . . I’m sure it’ll start to fall into sync. Everybody will see what he’s capable of doing.”
Last season, Jimenez looked ready to make his major-league debut.
He dominated the minors, hitting a combined .337/.384/.577 with 28 doubles, three triples and 22 home runs at Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte.
Despite the impressive numbers and fans’ pleas to call him up, the Sox never pulled the trigger. General manager Rick Hahn said the 6-4 outfielder needed to work on his defense.
Jimenez was disappointed that he didn’t reach the majors last season. But instead of sulking, he took Hahn’s criticism to heart. Jimenez focused on sharpening his defense this offseason and lost 15 pounds to improve his quickness.
It seems to be working. He has looked and felt more agile in left field.
“I feel like I run to the ball more easy because I lost some weight,” Jimenez said.
He will make his major-league debut in 2019; it’s just a matter of when. He’s expected to start the season in the minors before getting promoted in late April. By waiting until then, the Sox will get an extra year of contract control.
And when that day comes, Renteria knows Jimenez, who’s already being viewed as a potential American League Rookie of the Year, will be ready.
“Eloy is putting himself in a position, getting himself ready for the season, been working very, very hard on offense and defense,” Renteria said. “Eloy is Eloy. I think a lot of people are going to be happy to see this guy in left field.”