Eloy Jimenez: Cubs' New No. 1 Prospect is Already Reaching Phenom Status

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2017

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Eloy Jimenez #68 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during a spring training game against the Cleveland Indians at Sloan Park on February 26, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs are baseball's most complete team. They're the defending champs, with stars littered around the diamond.

Now, they've got another stud streaking across the firmament.

Sorry, haters, that's how it works. The rich get richer.

I'm talking about outfielder Eloy Jimenez, Chicago's top prospect, according to MLB.com and basically everyone else.

Jimenez turned 20 on Nov. 27 and is a year or two away from sniffing the Cubs' 25-man roster. But the Dominican Republic native, who signed for $2.8 million in 2013, is turning heads in his first big league spring training. 

He's gone 6-for-19 with a home run, a double and three RBI in the Cactus League. More importantly, he's saying the things that indicate he belongs. 

"I'm going to just keep working and hopefully break with the [big-league] team," Jimenez said through a translator, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times

He can stuff that in his pipe-dream and smoke it, obviously. The Cubs have a playing-time crunch in the outfield as is, with Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr., Jon Jay, Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist crowding the depth chart.

Jimenez's hubris is admirable, however, and, more to the point, justified.

Eloy Jimenez is in his first big league camp with the Cubs this spring.
Eloy Jimenez is in his first big league camp with the Cubs this spring.Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Recall the ludicrous catch and towering home run he notched at the 2016 All-Star Futures Game. They were fleeting moments, but they felt like harbingers of something special.

"Sky's the limit," Cubs vice president of player development Jason McLeod said, per Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. "I think he's someone who can sit in the middle of a lineup and wreak a lot of havoc on some pitching across the major leagues."

An imposing figure at 6'4", Jimenez has the physical makeup to stand out. 

He hit .329 with a .901 OPS and 14 home runs last season at Single-A South Bend and won the MiLBY Award for Breakout Prospect of the Year, per MiLB.com's Sam Dykstra. He hit three more homers in the Arizona Fall League.

If you require a visual aid, here you go:

That's smooth, legitimate power, the kind that plays at any level.

The Cubs boast their share of in-house studs with reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Addison Russell, infielder Javier Baez and, well, the list goes on. 

Their prospect stash took a hit when they dealt shortstop Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline for closer Aroldis Chapman

Torres is now one of the Yankees' top chips, and Chapman is back in pinstripes after signing a five-year, $86 million deal with New York. 

Thanks to Jimenez, however, the gravy train could keep rolling through the North Side.

"Everybody thinks all of our talent's already here," skipper Joe Maddon said, per Wittenmyer. "Timeout. There's other guys coming."

This is pure speculation, but Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward can opt out of his contract after the 2018 season. He may not, particularly if he keeps performing to the low standards he set in 2016.

If he does, however, it'll open a door wide for Jimenez. If he doesn't, expect Maddon to make it work with his mix-and-match machinations. 

Jimenez could slot into the Cubs outfield in the next couple of seasons.
Jimenez could slot into the Cubs outfield in the next couple of seasons.Rob Tringali/Getty Images

In its scouting report, MLB.com noted a parallel between Jimenez and former Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, who was dealt to the Kansas City Royals this winter for closer Wade Davis.

In the same report, Jimenez is also compared to Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton for his bat speed and strong arm, among other attributes.

These things are always theoretical until a player proves it at the highest level, but that comp should tell you all you need to know about Jimenez's ceiling. 

The Cubs are baseball's most complete team. That doesn't mean they can't get even more complete.

Jimenez can get them there, particularly if he maintains his nonchalant-under-pressure attitude.

"I don't really pay attention to that stuff," he said when asked how well he struck one of his AFL home runs, per MLB.com's Mike Rosenbaum, "but it does feel good when I hit it that hard."

   

All statistics current as of March 7 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com unless otherwise noted.