By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The player in the minor leagues with perhaps the highest ceiling could make his presence felt for the White Sox in 2018.
The next prospect with star potential in line to join the White Sox is Eloy Jimenez, the 20-year-old outfielder who has made a name for himself crushing baseballs in the minor leagues and whom the White Sox acquired from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade in July. Many talented evaluators have predicted greatness for Jimenez, and his performance in 2017 only fueled that belief. Jimenez hit .312 with 19 homers, 65 RBIs, 44 extra-bases hits and a .947 in 89 games across high Class-A and Double-A, where he ended the season.
Jimenez has kept up his quality production in winter league ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason, with four homers, 20 RBIs and a 1.153 OPS in 16 games.
When he met the Chicago media in September, Jimenez expressed the belief that he’s ready to play in the big leagues now.
“Playing here has been something incredible for me,” Jimenez told reporters last week of his experience in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. “The experience has been great. The fans support you, cheer for you, and it’s crazy, they say all kinds of things. They don’t stop for anything. Right now, my purpose is to keep working hard, finish strong and end next season in the U.S. playing in the major leagues.”
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged that Jimenez could force the organization’s hand and earn a promotion to the big leagues in 2018. Hahn referenced second baseman Yoan Moncada in his answer.
“When you look at where Moncada was when we acquired him, he had already spent the bulk of his season at Double-A,” Hahn said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score last weekend. “He then spent September in the big leagues. Eloy has only spent three weeks above A ball. So, he is probably a little behind the pace we had with Moncada. A very reasonable path for a player would be to have him spend the entire season at Double-A. That said, the good ones have a way of changing those plans on you because of forcing the issue. Granted it was only a couple of weeks, but Eloy made a rather large (Double-A) Birmingham ballpark look small in the short time he was there. If that continues during the 2018 season, he certainly is going to force the issue on us. We consider that a good problem to have.”
Depending on Jimenez’s progression, the White Sox could eventually encounter situation that reminds of the Cubs’ handling of Kris Bryant in 2015. If the White Sox decide to keep Jimenez in the minors for all of 2018, they could then wait until several weeks into the 2019 season to call up Jimenez, so as to earn an extra year of contract control. That’s what the Cubs smartly did with Bryant in 2015 after he had a monster spring training.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.