The No. 1 prospect in the White Sox loaded farm system got a step closer to playing in the major leagues Thursday.
Eloy Jimenez was the headliner in a ridiculously large number of promotions throughout the organization that signaled that despite a 25-games-under-.500 record at the big league level, the rebuilding effort is progressing nicely.
But antsy fans and observers who want to see the fruits of that effort land on the South Side as soon as possible have the same question now that Jimenez is a Charlotte Knight as they did when he was a Birmingham Baron: When will he be inserted into Rick Renteria's everyday lineup?
Director of player development Chris Getz didn’t have that answer Thursday when he was discussing all the minor league movement. But he outlined exactly what’s had White Sox fans salivating over the idea of Jimenez in the major league lineup.
“He’s done nothing but hit with us, and he’s continuing to do that,” Getz said on the conference call. “He’s driving the ball to all fields with power. The hit tool is very good, as well. He’s hammering fastballs. Talking about maturity, he’s definitely beyond his years in how he handles the game as a whole.
“When he steps into the box, it seems that you’re looking at a guy that plays in the big leagues already, and he’s not. He’s controlling the zone, he’s driving the ball, he’s making good decisions. We’ll see what he can do up at Charlotte.”
With Jimenez mashing at Birmingham this season — to the tune of .317/.368/.556 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 53 games — plenty have wondered why a pit stop at Charlotte is even necessary. General manager Rick Hahn has answered that question in the past, pointing to the different kind of pitching that Jimenez will face, and Getz echoed that thinking Thursday.
“At Charlotte, you’re going to run into guys that have a little more experience,” Getz said. “Some may have pitched in the big leagues, some might have been labeled those ‘4-A’ types. But what comes with that is more off-speed pitches, pitching backwards, being able to locate a little bit more. It will be interesting to see how he does respond with guys attacking him a little bit differently.
“We as an organization believe he’s going to be able to accomplish pretty much the same type of things he’s been accomplishing at Charlotte.”
That would be good news for those eagerly awaiting Jimenez’s arrival in Chicago because if he dominates at the plate at Triple-A the way he did at Double-A, then another promotion could be a possibility before the 2018 major league season runs out.
Of course before that happens, the White Sox want Jimenez to master things at the Triple-A level. Hahn mentioned before the season started that a good developmental season could end without Jimenez joining the big league squad at all. Like with all things in this rebuilding effort, the White Sox are going to be patient and do what’s best for the long term.
“He’s never played at Triple-A,” Getz said about a player who prior to joining the White Sox organization last summer had never played above Class A. “Now do I have full confidence that he’s going to go up there and hit? Sure. I absolutely do.
“If he continues to do so and forces our hand, we’re certainly going to have that conversation about him coming to Chicago. Let’s just get him in the lineup tonight and see what he can do.”
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.
“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”
According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.
“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”
Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.
“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”
The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.
“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”
Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.
Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.