Eloy Jimenez Has Aaron Judge Power, but He's a Whole New Breed of Slugger

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2019

Chicago White Sox's Eloy Jimenez answers questions during the baseball team's convention Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
David Banks/Associated Press

Eloy Jimenez is a potent, dangerous power hitter who's poised to crash the MLB party. That's Part A, and while it's an important part, it's not the whole story.

Here's Part B, and it's the truly scary bit for opposing pitchers: The power is merely the opening act in his hitting performance.

As he stands on the doorstep of big league stardom, Jimenez looks like a player capable of not merely clearing the fences with regularity but also minimizing his strikeouts and maximizing his batting average.

Think Aaron Judge melded with vintage Miguel Cabrera. Jimenez has yet to play a big league inning...but yes, we're going there.

In 2013, MLB.com rated a 16-year-old Jimenez the top international prospect. In August of that year, he signed with the Chicago Cubs.

In July 2017, the Cubs sent Jimenez to the crosstown Chicago White Sox in a deal that netted left-hander Jose Quintana and may soon haunt the Cubbies. 

Quintana logged a 3.74 ERA after the trade in 2017 and a 4.03 ERA on the North Side in 2018. Meanwhile, Jimenez is preparing for liftoff. 

In 2018, Jimenez split his time between the ChiSox's Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, where he combined for a .337/.384/.577 slash line. He turned 22 in November but has little left to prove in the minors. 

"I look at him as the Babe Ruth of our generation," White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech told reporters Saturday. Hyperbole aside, it speaks to the deserved hype Jimenez is generating.

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The modern game has been defined by sluggers who strike out and go deep with regularity. In his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign, Judge paced MLB with 208 whiffs but balanced the ledger with an American League-leading 52 long balls. 

What if a guy could replicate that pop while striking out less frequently and making more consistent contact?

Jimenez teased that potential by striking out just 69 times in 456 plate appearances last season. Compare that to Judge's 152 strikeouts in 498 plate appearances in 2018.

Maybe comparing MiLB stats to MLB stats is apples and oranges. How about this? In his age-22 season between Single-A and High-A in 2014, Judge struck out 131 times in 563 plate appearances. The contrast stands.

"I just try to hit the ball on the barrel," Jimenez told Knights TV in July, per Steve Lyttle of the Charlotte Observer

Is it really that simple? For him, apparently it is. Here, let's introduce some visual evidence. It's from 2017 and, to be fair, from a High-A Home Run Derby, but it's always fun to watch a guy smash lights:

In 2016, while playing in the Arizona Fall League, Jimenez smoked a 119.4 mph ground ball, the fifth-highest exit velocity ever recorded by Statcast at the time. Keep in mind, he was roughly a month shy of his 20th birthday.

Jimenez rates as an average outfielder at best with moderate speed and a suspect throwing arm. His long-term future could be as a first baseman or designated hitter. Again, though, a guy with eye-opening power and impressive contact capabilities by the name of Miguel Cabrera carved out quite a career at those positions. 

The White Sox will almost certainly keep Jimenez down for a bit longer because of service-time considerations, even if he sets the exhibition slate on fire. 

"He is going to be, in our opinion, a tremendous player for the White Sox for a long time, and we all think he's going to make a significant impact on this team this year and spend the bulk, if not all, of the season in Chicago," general manager Rick Hahn said, per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. "When exactly that time starts remains to be seen."

Read between the lines, and it's pretty obvious where this is headed. Just ask another Windy City star, Kris Bryant. 

Whenever Jimenez debuts, the baseball world will be watching. Can he translate his low-whiff, high-average, massive-power approach at the highest level and help redefine the modern slugger?

Stay tuned...and prepare to pop your popcorn.

                  

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.  

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