Dreaming of the stars: White Sox envision Harper, Jimenez in same OF
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
LAS VEGAS — The White Sox didn’t leave the winter meetings Thursday with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper in tow, although he remains on their radar.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Dominican Republic, Sox prospect Eloy Jimenez continued to swat winter-league baseballs with authority, the latest tantalizing example of his talent that will be on display in the major leagues soon, probably in April.
Jimenez’s looming presence and impending arrival in Chicago is a big reason the possibility of Harper jumping into the outfield has everyone from the Sox’ front office to the coaching staff to a wanting fan base on the edge of their seats.
Jimenez, who turned 22 last month, is a potential superstar-in-waiting, a likable teammate with a broad smile, an engaging personality and an explosive, polished bat. Picture him doing what he does offensively in left field and Harper in right, bookend stars wrapped around $26 million Cuban prospect Luis Robert, 21, in center for the next half-dozen years or so.
Harper, at 26, and Jimenez could be for the Sox what Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have been for the Cubs: middle-of-the-order bats under long-term team control, potential perennial All-Stars with larger-than-life presences in the clubhouse and on the field, a lefty-righty combo to be reckoned with.
Harper has studied the Sox’ farm system, so he knows about Jimenez. So does Sox director of player development Chris Getz.
‘‘He’s a fun talent to watch,’’ Getz said. ‘‘What, his second at-bat in winter ball, he hits a grand slam? He doesn’t play for a couple of months and just walks right in there and does what he does.’’
Between Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte in 2018, Jimenez batted .337/.384/.577 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI. For the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, he was batting .448/.500/.759 through eight games. General manager Rick Hahn said Jimenez will finish up around the holidays.
‘‘Eloy certainly has a chance to be one of those big-time players that you see on every other club — and maybe similar to some of the guys we’re trying to acquire,’’ manager Rick Renteria said this week.
‘‘I don’t want to call him a Hall of Famer because that’s a lot to put on a kid’s plate. But he has the skill set to potentially be a very impactful front-line major-league player.’’
As impactful as Harper?
‘‘Absolutely,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘And I think it’s because of the expectation and the understanding of who he is and what he’s about and the skill set that he brings to the table. We’re all excited about the possibilities.’’
Renteria always lights up when talking about Robert, who hasn’t played above Class A but, because of his better defense and speed, might have a more well-rounded upside than Jimenez. Defensively, Jimenez figures to be adequate at best.
Getz said Jimenez profiles best in left field.
‘‘Speed is a component of playing in the outfield, and it’s not one of his biggest strengths, but he’s working on improving his routes,’’ Getz said. ‘‘I’d say he gets the most out of his ability out there.
‘‘I saw him a couple of weeks ago in the [Dominican Republic], and it’s the best shape I’ve seen him in since he’s been a White Sox. He’s in a great frame of mind. And it looks like he’s in a position to improve his defensive side along with his baserunning, all facets of the game. He’s moving toward being a more improved, well-rounded player.’’