ORLANDO, Fla. — The White Sox are beginning to understand what the Cubs already knew about Eloy Jimenez, a young right-handed power hitter who drew comparisons to Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Martinez.
No pressure. But Jimenez reported to big-league camp with the defending World Series champs and thought he could leave Arizona with a spot on the Opening Day roster, a sign of his confidence, natural talent and sense of belonging.
Jimenez started 2017 with advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, but he still wound up saving their season by showing enough potential that the Cubs could make him the headliner in the blockbuster Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox during the All-Star break.
Now one of the most interesting pieces to the White Sox rebuild is in the Dominican Winter League, roughly 1,000 miles away from the general manager meetings at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, representing one of the game’s strongest farm systems.
“The biggest lockbox whenever you make an acquisition,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday, “is what you’re getting from a makeup standpoint. Scouts do a tremendous job digging and getting as much background information as they can.
“But until you actually have him on campus and see how he works and goes about his business day in and day out, you don’t really know. We had positive reports, (but) I don’t think we fully appreciated the magnetic element of Eloy’s personality and how well he plays in the clubhouse and how diligent he is about his work.”
Hahn has seen the video of Jimenez with Gigantes del Cibao, where he’s hitting .365 with four homers, two triples, five doubles and 20 RBIs through 17 games. That is building off his first Double-A exposure in August and September, when Jimenez put up a .956 OPS in 73 plate appearances.
“Eloy might be forcing our timetable a little bit,” Hahn said. “You obviously have a young kid who’s 21 years old and has only been above A-ball for about 20 games. But in a short period of time in Birmingham, he made that ballpark look small.
“He’s obviously had a wonderful stay so far in winter ball. We’ll see him in big-league camp. I’m sure he’s going to continue to open eyes and impress not just with what the performance is on the field, but his work ethic and how he goes about his business, which has been equally as impressive since we got him.”
All this means Jimenez could be coming to the South Side sooner rather than later, right when the Cubs-Sox rivalry should be heating up again and Chicago baseball fans will be expecting October baseball at two different Red Line stops.
“It’s reasonable to have a development plan that has him in Double-A for the entire year next year,” Hahn said. “And if he does well, that’s a very fine year and age appropriate. That said ... the good ones have a way of sort of forcing your hand on it.
“What we’ve seen from Eloy in this short period of time that we’ve had him already, he may be forcing our hand a little bit.”