White Sox farmhand Eloy Jimenez made it very clear he intends to land on the South Side sometime next season.
The current Dominican League player of the week — and MLBPipeline.com’s No. 4 overall prospect in baseball — said Wednesday his top priority is to either start or finish the 2018 campaign in the big leagues with the White Sox. Since he was acquired in the Jose Quintana trade last July, Jimenez, who finished the season at Double-A Birmingham, has been an offensive juggernaut. He hasn’t slowed down in winter ball, either, as he’s hitting .400/.405/.714 with two home runs and eight RBIs in his first eight games for the Gigantes del Cibao.
The outfielder’s outstanding production is certain to draw many calls for Jimenez’s arrival to be expedited next season. How the White Sox handle Jimenez and Michael Kopech, who both appear to be on the cusp of reaching the majors, could be significant in what kind of fruit the club’s rebuild ultimately bares.
“Right now my purpose is to keep working hard, finish strong here and start or end the next season in the United States in the Major Leagues,” Jimenez told the team.
While the top prospect’s latest statement is sure to fire up White Sox fans waiting for his big league debut yet again, it’s also certain to test the will of the front office.
Last month, general manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox are in a tricky position. Similar to their thirsty fans, the team’s brain trust is encouraged by what took place in 2017. They’d love to hit the fast forward button and are just as eager as anyone to snap a lengthy postseason drought that extends all the way back to 2008.
But that’s the difficult part as Hahn knows the White Sox must remain vigilant when it comes to the long-term plan and not rush any prospects. Jimenez and Kopech are likely in 2018 to test Hahn, who often says that the “good ones have a way of forcing the issue.” When he visited the White Sox in September, Kopech realized he’s only “one step away” after a dominant 2017 season.
What the White Sox must do is find the balance in between and afford their top minor leaguers enough time to accomplish everything they need before they arrive in the big leagues. That means giving Kopech sufficient time to further hone his fastball command and work on secondary pitches and allowing Jimenez — who only has 73 plate appearances above Single-A — more time against advanced pitchers to have an idea what awaits him in the bigs.
The White Sox did a good job of staying patient in 2017 with second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer.
Unlike years past when prospects were rushed to the majors to fill holes for an organization that hoped to be competitive, the White Sox reversed course in 2017 and let them further develop at Triple-A Charlotte. The new philosophy paid dividends for Giolito and Fulmer, who both shrugged off midsummer slumps and performed well on the mound in September. It also gave Moncada and Lopez time to adapt to a new organization after the massive trades that brought them to the White Sox last December. Moncada responded by producing 1.7 b-Wins Above Replacement in 54 games and Lopez showed plenty of signs he’s a middle of the rotation pitcher during his eight starts.
Kopech and Jimenez should push the White Sox the same way Moncada and Lopez did in 2017. The team would be best served to handle them in a similar fashion.