It seems it wasn’t long ago that the most common sentiment echoed throughout the Cubs fanbase was, “they’ll never give up Eloy.”
Eloy Jimenez was hitting .329/.369/.532 during his first full season at high-A Myrtle Beach, which earned him the title of the Cubs No. 1 prospect in 2016. Cubs fans were simply enamored.
But as it became apparent that the Cubs wealth of offensive talent was simply brimming over, and as areas of need began to form throughout the rotation, the pipe-dream of Jimenez becoming the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade deal quickly became a reality. The deal the Cubs and White Sox made just a few weeks before the trade deadline has already solidified itself as what is likely one of the best fit trades of the 2017 season. The Cubs placed a rising ace into their rotation, and the White Sox added a young, developing power bat to their farm system.
What the White Sox assumed they were getting was the Jimenez baseball had been marveling at since 2014. Instead, they got something even better.
Jimenez arrived in High-A with the White Sox in July and hit .345/.410/.682—miles higher than he’d hit with any Cubs affiliate. Just like that, the Jimenez Frenzy was spreading wildly on the other side of town.
Moments such as the now popular “The Best” video in which Jimenez calls his own home run quickly became celebrated ones.
“That’s one of those things that just happened,” Jimenez said of the called shot. “Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I feel very confident. I’m feeling good with my body and I say, ‘OK, I’m going to hit a home run tonight, and it happens. I have that kind of confidence in myself.’”
How often does this happen? According to Jimenez, quite often. He just simply refers to it as confidence. Jimenez, however, is aware that there is still work to be done. Instant success without proper progression is never the long term answer.
“I have to work all around,” Jimenez said during his visit to Guaranteed Rate Field in September. “I have to improve all around my game. I don’t think it’s any specific area that I have to improve more than another. I have to keep learning about the game because every day you can learn something different.”
“People are going to want to see Michael Kopech [and] Eloy Jimenez,” General Manager Rick Hahn told WLS. “But we’re going to have to exhibit that same level of patience here over the next 12-18 months so that we can make sure they have similar such success as these first three [players to come up],” Hahn said, referring to Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Yoan Moncada.
Jimenez’s success hasn’t seemed to stop, though. Recently wrapping up his time in the Dominican Winter League, Jimenez says that his busy offseason has just helped him prepare for future long seasons on the South side. “This is just a good way for us to get ready for when the time comes for us to play in the World Series,” Jimenez said. “Probably two or three years ahead. When that time comes we have to be ready for that. We can’t say, ‘I’m tired because I’m playing too much’ or ‘I’m tired because I had 600 at-bats.’ When that time comes we have to get ready, and I think this is a good way for us to be prepared, for when that moment comes.”
If it was possible to build on the totals Jimenez finished his minor league season out with, he certainly went for it.
Check out Jimenez’s numbers in the Dominican League:
Despite Jimenez’s proven ability to tear through whatever challenges lay ahead, Rick Hahn is not so certain that he will be ready to join the White Sox in 2018. “It’s possible,” that Jimenez spends all of 2018 in the minors, Hahn said in an interview with 670 The Score, then quickly peppering a new twist on a classic Rick Hahn quote — “But the good ones have a way of changing plans on you.”
What Sox fans must remember is that development isn’t simply lent to success in numbers. Jimenez may look ready to take the majors by storm, but development is non-linear and simply because Jimenez looks to be a natural for success at the plate doesn’t mean the rest of his makeup is refined just yet. Jimenez still believes he needs to elevate his game and, though it can be assumed that this is unanimously agreed upon by White Sox personnel, whether that development continues in the majors or minors, may be a topic of disagreement.
“I truly believe that I can be playing here right now,” Jimenez said in September. “Like I say, God’s plan is perfect. The only thing I can do and handle is to work hard every day and try to do my best and try to learn about the game every day and put me in the best position to force them to make a decision.”
Hahn has spoke about the delay in Moncada’s arrival in the majors and of the similarities the rest of the Sox’s growing pool of prospects’ paths will bear. Though there were other factors involved, the stressed point was that there were simply areas of Moncada’s development that still weren’t quite ready for the the big league stage.
There are certainly things that ballplayers need to work out at the major league level, but until the proverbial “checklist” as Hahn refers to it as is complete, Jimenez and any other prospect for that matter simply isn’t ready to take the next step. That’s something that folks will just have to trust the White Sox developmental staff on.