As we continue our tour of the top prospects across the Chicago baseball landscape this afternoon, we take a look at Chicago Cubs #2 prospect, Eloy Jimenez.
It was just an innocent looking pop-fly hit by Phillies’ prospect Dylan Cozens. The ball trailed towards the right field fence, way foul, and yet Cubs’ outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez was still running towards it.
It was the 2016 MLB Futures Game, a competition during the All-Star break designed to display the best prospects that baseball has to offer.
The 19-year-old Jimenez took an enormous leap at the wall, and somehow, despite being flipped over said wall in the most ungraceful fashion possible, came up with the catch.
The commentators almost couldn’t believe their eyes.
“Eloy’s coming!” exclaimed Matt Vasgersian. “Hide your hearts!”
This exceptional talent is nothing new. Coming out of the Dominican Republic, the 16-year-old Jimenez was considered the top international prospect of 2013, and the Cubs spent all of $2.8 million to sign him. He was known for his impressive build (6’4″ 200 lbs. as a 16-year-old), his above average speed, and his strong throwing arm.
The monstrous righty struggled in his first year as a pro, sporting a slash line of .227/.268/.367 with a grand total of three homers in the Arizona Rookie League. He improved quite a bit in 2015 (.284/.328/.418) before truly breaking out last season.
2016 saw Jimenez’s promotion to Single-A South Bend, where he finally displayed his full power. He slashed .329/.369/.532 with 14 homers in his first full season, and earned a place in the national spotlight in the aforementioned Futures Game, where he both absolutely crushed a three-run shot off of the Western Metal Supply Co. sign in Petco Park and made that ridiculous diving catch over the right field wall.
He won the Midwest League MVP award in 2016, where he led the league in doubles (40), slugging percentage (.532), and OPS (.901), finished second in RBIs (81) and total bases (230), and third in batting average (.329). He was also the runaway choice for the official Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Award.
Jimenez, now of 20 years of age, is, without a single doubt, my favorite Cubs prospect. His swing is a thing of beauty; he generates rapid speed and incredible power without much effort. He’s been described as a better-hitting Jorge Soler, but, given Soler’s significant offensive struggles, there’s more of a distinct difference than the description suggests. He recently drew comparisons to Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton as well, but these analyses forget the predominant tool that makes Jimenez as great as he is.
In addition to his power, Jimenez is just a great hitter in general. While Stanton hits bombs every once in a while with a low-200’s average, Jimenez has the potential to be hitting just as many homers with a high-200’s/low-300’s average. His power is his most special talent, don’t get me wrong, but combining that power with his natural hitting ability gives the Cubs have a guy who can post MVP-caliber numbers consistently.
In the field, Jimenez has spent most of his time in left or center, but the hope is that he can develop his throwing accuracy enough to move to right. His arm is powerful, but in order to excel, he needs to make some small refinements. His speed, while initially a plus, hasn’t developed the way scouts hoped it would, making him an average runner as it stands now.
He’s starting 2017 at Spring Training, and will most likely spend the rest of it at A-Advanced Myrtle Beach. His frame is already developed, meaning he should make quick progress through the farm system, so you’ll probably be seeing him in the MLB around 2019 (give or take a year depending on his progress).
My expectations for Eloy are insanely high, but with good reason. His lone fault is the fact that his swing can, at times, be long, but even that is something both uncommon and easily taken care of. He has the potential to be not only an above average hitter, but one with raw power. There’s always the chance that something goes wrong at some point, but aside from that extremely unlikely possibility, Jimenez will be a star.