Eloy Jimenez on his White Sox future — and the ‘first’ he’ll accomplish on Day 1
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Eloy Jimenez has a dream. Not in the metaphorical sense, either. This one comes to him often as he sleeps.
He’s playing for the White Sox. It’s October. He’s digging in at the plate against an elite pitcher — Chris Sale, David Price and Luis Severino each has visited his subconscious in the dead of night — and all that hangs in the balance is a trip to the World Series.
‘‘They beat me sometimes,’’ he said. ‘‘I beat them sometimes. But that’s a good thing when you’re dreaming and you know you’re almost there.’’
The No. 3 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, Jimenez is indeed almost there — in the majors, that is — and every Sox fan with a pulse knows it. He is a 21-year-old phenom, a 6-4 game-changer with thunder in his bat and the road to stardom at his feet. Friday was only his 10th game with Class AAA Charlotte, but a call-up to the Sox this season is inevitable.
Does the Sox rebuild really even mean anything until Jimenez is in the team photo?
And here’s a little detail about Jimenez the big-leaguer that has yet to make the rounds at all: When he dons a Sox uniform, he’ll be the first No. 74 in team history.
Yep, No. 74.
‘‘I was playing winter ball last year with that number,’’ he said. ‘‘I just [thought]: ‘Nobody has that number. Nobody likes that number. I’m going to take it, and I’m going to create that number.’ ’’
Kind of like Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has done with No. 79. At least, that’s the big idea.
The only No. 74 of great distinction in major-league annals is Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The other 10 players who’ve appeared in the number are a who’s-who of ‘‘Who?’’
Jimenez wore No. 16 in a multihit game Friday against the Gwinnett Stripers. The Dominican slugger has worn Nos. 27, 21 and 12 during his brief pro career. The idea behind the No. 74 didn’t begin percolating in his mind until an appearance last September at Guaranteed Rate Field, when, in his first visit to the Sox’ home park, he gazed skyward and saw Carlton Fisk’s retired No. 72.
Maybe someday his number will be immortalized alongside Fisk’s. Hey, isn’t getting ridiculously ahead of ourselves fun? Jimenez is a tad more measured. He sees a sleeping giant of a Sox team that soon will be ready to shake up the world.
‘‘What we’re building, it’s going to be really good,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve got a lot of talent. We’ve got pitching, defense, hitting. The future is going to be fun.’’
Jimenez’s future has been written in the minds of many for a while now. He was a can’t-miss Cubs prospect before being traded to the Sox last July in the deal that moved left-hander Jose Quintana to the North Side. Now he’s a soon-to-hit Sox prospect whose ascent might end up driving Cubs fans a little crazy.
Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty recalls seeing Jimenez a few years back, when the former was in the Nationals’ organization. Jimenez, only a teenager, first was attacked with fastballs, but he pounded them. Then he was attacked with sliders out of the zone, but he didn’t deign to swing at them.
‘‘He was practically spitting on them,’’ McCatty said.
Knights hitting coach Andy Tomberlin was in the dugout when Jimenez — in his first spring at-bat after two-plus weeks on the shelf with an injury — launched an opposite-field home run against Cubs pitcher Cory Mazzoni in March.
‘‘There’s a sound — a louder sound — that his bat makes, and the flight of the ball when he gets one is a special sight,’’ Tomberlin said. ‘‘When he hit that home run, I just said: ‘Wow, there he is.’ Against the team that traded him? What a moment. It elated us.’’
Jimenez isn’t long for Charlotte. He knows it. His teammates know it. If you ask any of them, they’ll tell you he’s ready for the big leagues right now.
Jimenez himself will tell you as much.
‘‘Yeah, I’m ready,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel confident with myself. I feel comfortable. And I feel ready.’’
Meanwhile, he envisions a time when fans will go to big-league ballparks just to see him hit a baseball. To hear it, even, and to watch it take majestic flight. And he dreams. There are wild cheers as he rounds the bases, his signature No. 74 on his back.