White Sox

'Unbelievable' Eloy Jimenez has impressed White Sox on and off the field

'Unbelievable' Eloy Jimenez has impressed White Sox on and off the field

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Had the Jose Quintana trade never happened, the Winston-Salem Dash would have faced Eloy Jimenez on Monday night instead of playing alongside him.

The Dash hosted Myrtle Beach, the Cubs Advanced-A affiliate in the opener of a five-game series at BB&T Ballpark on Monday. Jimenez, 20, played 42 games for the Pelicans before the White Sox acquired him as part of a four-player package on July 13.

Given how he’s swinging the bat right now, most White Sox pitchers said they aren’t certain how they would have attacked Jimenez, who on Monday was named the Carolina League player of the week.

Their scouting report: Pitch him in, he’s going to beat you. Pitch him away, good luck. But Dash catcher Zack Collins knows how he’d try to tame Jimenez, who has been otherworldly since his arrival in the White Sox organization.

“We have this rule in baseball, four pitches and you can intentionally walk him,” Collins said. “That’s about all I would do is walk him every time. He’s unreal right now and obviously locked in. He’s a great hitter and hits the ball to all fields, so there’s really nothing you can pitch him.”

Carolina League pitchers would appear to be in line for a well-earned break. It’s expected Jimenez will soon be promoted to Double-A Birmingham.

Since he joined the White Sox, Jimenez was hitting .362/.427/.714 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBIs through Sunday. But it’s the way he’s gone about it that has captured his teammates’ attention.

Jimenez -- who finished 0-for-5 in Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Pelicans -- blasted at least 850 feet worth of homers on Saturday night, including one over the American flag in left-center. He had a 5-for-6 game last month and there’s the home run he predicted he’d hit, a forecast that pitcher Ian Clarkin captured on his phone.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Clarkin said. “I talked to him before and said, ‘What do you got for me today, Eloy?’ ‘I’m going to hit a home run today.’ ‘All right, I’m going to quote you on that.’ “So we took a video of him saying I’m going to hit a home run today.

“First pitch (of his last at-bat), absolute missile and I wasn’t surprised at all. I wouldn’t lie to you, Eloy is so good. It’s so exciting to watch. You can pretty much predict he’s going to do something unbelievable.”

Jimenez is the same player who has twice struck the light standard, once in batting practice and another time in a home run derby. He also blasted a three-run homer and made a jaw-dropping catch at the wall in the 2016 Futures Game. One major league scout attending Monday’s game said Jimenez is one of the top-10 talents he’s seen in 30-plus years in baseball.

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But manager Willie Harris insists its far more than production and outstanding plays that captivates everyone.

“Ever since he’s been here it’s been very exciting to come to the ballpark and see what he’s going to do next,” Harris said. “He’s just an impressive young man, not just on the field but in the clubhouse too. He’s one of the leaders.”

Said pitcher Dane Dunning: “He’s a big team guy. He goes out and plays with heart and plays hard. He brings a good environment to the team in the dugout. It’s fun to watch.”

Jimenez said the reception he has received from teammates since his arrival has been critical to his success. He also tries to bring the same upbeat, energetic personality to the clubhouse everyday no matter how he performs.

“This feels amazing right now,” Jimenez said. “Feels pretty good at the plate and my teammates, they support me a lot. That is a good way for me to take advantage and do whatever I need to do.

“Amazing. Good. Positive. Everybody. They try to do good and they stay positive.

“My teammates support me and I support them.”

Jimenez said his favorite hitters to watch growing up were Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera. He likes how both used the entire field and hopes to model himself after the demeanor each had in critical at-bats.

“Focus when they have the game in their hands and they don’t try to do too much,” Jimenez said. “They stay with the same plan and focus on the game. That’s what I try to do.

“Try to put the ball in play, have good at-bats and put a good swing on it.”

But it’s not just good swings that make Jimenez a success. His manager is impressed with Jimenez’s ability to identify the other team’s approach to him and how he can change his own on the fly.

“He figures out how pitchers are trying to get him out and he figures out his approach from there,” Harris said. “He fixes things it takes most kids a little longer to fix.”

Dunning isn’t sure there’s a solution to the problem he’s tried to work out since Jimenez arrived. The righty spent Monday night in the press box at BB&T Park charting pitches and thinking how he’d approach every hitter in the lineup.

It’s something he always does. Dunning said before the game he’s glad he no longer has to prepare to face Jimenez.

“He’s an incredibly tough person to pitch,” Dunning said. “When Eloy comes up to bat it’s like, I could try to get him inside and bam he hits a home run on a fastball in. You’re like, alright, maybe slider away and its bam double in the gap slider away. It’s just like everything I think of he can hit. He’s one of those kids who sees the ball real well and he’s able to put good swings on them so it’s more or less that you get lucky.”

Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease


Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

The Cubs made the Jose Quintana deal knowing it would have been more difficult to give up Dylan Cease if he was already performing at the Double-A level, and that the White Sox organization would be a good place to continue his education as a young pitcher.

While Eloy Jimenez keeps drawing ridiculous comparisons – the running total now includes Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz – Cease is more than just the other name prospect from the deal that shocked the baseball world during the All-Star break.

“We still project him as a starter,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said during this week’s GM meetings in Florida. “He certainly has the stuff where it’s easy to envision him as a potential dominant reliever. But to this point – for the foreseeable future – we deal with the starting and continue to develop him as a potential front-end arm.”

The Theo Epstein regime still hasn’t developed an impact homegrown pitcher, but that hasn’t stopped the Cubs from winning 292 games, six playoff rounds and a World Series title across the last three seasons, while still being in a strong position to win the National League Central again in 2018.

Without Quintana and his affordable contract that can run through 2020, Epstein’s front office might have been looking at the daunting possibility of trying to acquire three starting pitchers this winter.

While surveying a farm system in the middle of a natural downturn, Baseball America ranked seven pitchers on its top-10 list of prospects from the Cubs organization: Adbert Alzolay, Jose Albertos, Alex Lange, Oscar De La Cruz, Brendon Little, Thomas Hatch and Jen-Ho Tseng.

So far, only Alzolay, an Arizona Fall League Fall Star with seven starts for Double-A Tennessee on his resume, and Tseng, who made his big-league debut in September, have pitched above the A-ball level.

Cease – who went 0-8 with a 3.89 ERA for Class-A Kannapolis in his first nine starts in the White Sox system – has a 100-mph fastball and a big curveball and won’t turn 22 until next month. That stuff allowed Cease to pile up 126 strikeouts against 44 walks in 93.1 innings this year, putting him in the wave that includes Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

“Ideally, we have a lot of guys we project to be part of the future, very good, championship-caliber rotation,” Hahn said. “In an ideal world, there’s not going to be room at the inn for all of them. You only have five in that rotation and some of these guys will wind up in the bullpen. In reality, as players develop, you’re going to see some attrition.”

One spot after the White Sox grabbed Carlos Rodon with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Cubs did Kyle Schwarber’s below-slot deal, using part of the savings to buy out Cease’s commitment to Vanderbilt University ($1.5 million bonus for a sixth-rounder) and supervise his recovery from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Cease was never going to be on the fast track to Wrigley Field, and now the White Sox hope he can be part of the foundation on the South Side, where it’s easier to sell a rebuild after watching the Cubs and Houston Astros become World Series champions.

“It doesn’t change really for us internally in terms of our commitment or focus or our plan or our timeline or anything along those lines,” Hahn said. “I do think, perhaps, it helps the fan base understand a little bit about what the process looks like, where other teams have been and how long the path they took to get to the ultimate goal of winning a World Series (was). In Chicago, many fans saw it firsthand with the Cubs.

“There are certainly more and more examples in the game over the last several years to help sort of show fans the path and justification for what we’re (doing).”

The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm


The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm

The White Sox continued their rebuild Thursday by trading for an intriguing young right-handed pitcher.

The South Siders acquired Thyago Vieira from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for international signing bonus pool money.

The 24-year-old Vieira is a Brazilian native and has only made one appearance in the big leagues, striking out a batter in one perfect inning of work in 2017.

While his career minor-league numbers don't jump off the page — 14-19 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 13 saves and 7.4 K/9 in 290.2 innings \— Vieira has been reportedly clocked at 104 mph with his fastball and was ranked as the Mariners' No. 8 prospect at the time of the deal. He also held righties to .194 batting average in 2017.

Here's video of Vieira throwing gas:

And this may explain why Vieira was even available:

Control has been an issue throughout his career, as he's walked 4.6 batters per nine innings in the minors. He has improved in that regard over the last few seasons, however, walking only 22 batters in 54 innings across three levels in 2017 and he doled out only one free pass in 5.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

What does this deal mean in the big picture for baseball? How did the Sox pull off a move like this while not having to give up a player in return? 

This may help shed light on the situation from Baseball America's Kyle Glaser:

Either way, the White Sox may have just acquired a guy who could potentially throw his name in the hat for "future closer." Or at the very least, throw his name in the hat for "best name."