GLENDALE, Ariz. — As if expectations weren’t high enough for Eloy Jimenez.
White Sox fans are eagerly awaiting Jimenez’s ascension to the major leagues, which is anticipated to happen within the first few weeks of the 2019 season. He’s the top-ranked prospect in the organization and the No. 3 prospect in the game. His statistical output, light-tower power, ever-present confidence and scouting reports from every corner of the baseball world have previewed Jimenez as a superstar in the making.
Even general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged this offseason that the White Sox expect Jimenez to become the caliber of player that puts him the same category as the “premium talent” the team has pursued on this winter’s free-agent market: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two of the best players in baseball.
And now you can add a comparison to arguably the greatest hitter in history.
“I look at him as the Babe Ruth of our generation,” Michael Kopech said Saturday at Camelback Ranch. “He’s going to be OK.”
So apparently White Sox fans can expect to cheer on one of the best players of all-time, watch him belt more than 700 home runs and turn his name into an adjective — once he finally gets his first major league at-bat, that is.
That sounds pretty hyperbolic, but as illustrated, Kopech’s eye-popping praise is only the latest for a guy who’s expected to entrench himself in the middle of the South Side batting order for the better part of the next decade.
“Very smart hitter, very well rounded when gets to the plate,” Kopech said. “He’s very calm, doesn’t seem like he’s out of place at any point, no matter who’s on the mound. Very impressive to watch.
“I’ve seen that guy hit about everything as far as anyone can hit it, so I don’t know if there’s a pitch you could get by him.”
Jimenez had an opportunity to respond to Kopech's compliment and dolled out one of his own.
"Yeah, he told me that in Triple-A," Jimenez said. I feel proud and blessed. And I think he is the Nolan Ryan."
Jimenez didn’t make it to Chicago last year, but he was the No. 1 topic of discussion at Guaranteed Rate Field, with Hahn consistently peppered with questions about when Jimenez would be promoted to the big leagues. If it seemed a little premature, considering Jimenez had played in only 18 games above Class A when the 2018 season started, just look at what he did: a .337/.384/.577 slash line with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.
While the White Sox dealt with the financial realities of the game, Jimenez’s continued stay in the minor leagues prompted angry statements from his agents. And the player himself penned a piece for The Players’ Tribune about how ready he was for the majors. The latter wasn’t much of a controversy, though, as Jimenez has been talking about his big league readiness since he was acquired in the 2017 trade that brought him over from the Cubs.
Mix in that confidence with all the talent, and you get a guy who’s expected to hit the ground running when he finally gets called up, most likely sometime in mid April.
The transition from the minors to the majors can be tough for some. Kopech doesn’t think it will be a problem for Jimenez — even though he has to deal with Ruthian expectations.
“If there’s any struggles at all, it won’t be physically, it will be mentally. But I don’t see him struggling,” Kopech said. “He’s been a big leaguer in his own mind for a long time, and with good reason.”