“Forcing the issue,” a phrase that White Sox fans have heard General Manager Rick Hahn mention countless times when talking about some of the talent in the White Sox farm system. Specifically, this phrase gets used when he’s asked about how soon we will see these prospects in uniform for the White Sox.
White Sox outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez is one name that is frequently the root of that question. With the season coming to an end sooner rather than later, it’s time to ask the question: has Eloy Jimenez forced the issue and is he MLB ready? After his performance in Double-A with the Barons, the short answer would be “yes.” Now, after seeing what he’s doing in Triple-A with the Knights, the answer changes to “definitely.”
Let’s take a look at what Eloy has done over the course of the 2018 season to get to this point:
Double-A, Birmingham Barons
Eloy’s time in Birmingham got off to a delayed start because of strained pectoral muscle that caused him to miss the first 13 games of the season. Once he returned to the field, he terrorized opposing pitching on his way to a slash line of .317/.368/.556 in 53 games for the Barons.
He would finish his Double-A stint with 10 home runs and 42 RBI’s. At the time of his promotion to Charlotte, these numbers placed him at third overall in home run totals in the Southern League and second overall for RBI totals in the Southern League. Eloy showed that he could go deep in clutch moments when he hit a go-ahead grand slam in the top of the ninth inning against the Jackson Generals.
Just call him Mr. Clutch. Eloy Jimenez (@Lamantha21) delivered his first grand slam in the #WhiteSox system, a go-ahead shot in the ninth for @BhamBarons. https://t.co/RFGJSQ6p9z pic.twitter.com/cUufiRKp2Z
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 27, 2018
To say that Double-A pitching was too easy for Eloy Jimenez would be an understatement. As a matter of fact, Double-A was not a challenge for him at all. In 228 plate appearances, Eloy struck out 39 times, giving him a strikeout percentage of 17.1% according to FanGraphs.
On top of that, he put together a few hit streaks during his time with the Barons. Eloy had a 15-game hit streak and during that streak there was a point where he had two or more hits in 9 consecutive games. He would also go on to have a 13-game hit streak in a different stretch of games.
Even though hitting is by far and away Eloy Jimenez’s best tool, he was also very consistent in the field for the Barons. He had a fielding percentage of .986 while rotating between corner outfield spots. In 376.2 innings of outfield work, he only committed one error while picking up 3 assists.
If Eloy didn’t start the season with an injury, his time in Double-A would’ve been much different and he likely wouldn’t have been there as late into the season as he was. Regardless, the injury didn’t slow him down and he showed plenty of flashes of potential while playing for Birmingham.
Triple-A, Charlotte Knights
When Eloy Jimenez was promoted to the Charlotte Knights, it marked the first time that he’s made it to Triple-A in his young career. That means a higher level of pitching is going to be more of a challenge for him, right? Not quite as Eloy has continued to rake since he’s moved on to Charlotte.
Unfortunately, Eloy Jimenez was struck by the injury bug again after playing 12 games with the Knights and was sidelined with strained adductor muscle right before the All-Star break. Eloy picked up right where he left off after returning from injury. He’s currently slashing .351/.400/.622 and has an OPS of 1.022 in 20 games with the Knights. He’s been held hit-less in just one game since returning to the field.
While facing a higher level of pitching, Eloy is still keeping the strikeouts minimal with only seven in 80 plate appearances. His most impressive game for Charlotte occurred on Friday, July 20 when he smacked two solo home runs and drove in another run on a double. He went 3-5 on the night with 3 RBI’s and 3 runs scored.
After an outstanding performance from July 16-22, Eloy Jimenez was named the International League Batter of the Week. During that stretch, Eloy hit .428 with three doubles, three home runs, six RBI’s, and scored six runs. That’s remarkable achievement, earning that honor in just one month after his promotion.
Eloy Jiménez named International League Batter of the Week!
— Charlotte Knights (@KnightsBaseball) July 23, 2018
Eloy currently has a total of 5 home runs, 5 doubles, and 10 RBI’s with the Knights. The higher level of competition hasn’t proved to be difficult for him and he’s showing that his bat can stay hot at any level up to this point. There’s only one more promotion for him and that should hopefully be coming soon.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Eloy Jimenez is the most talented outfielder in the entire White Sox organization and he’s only 21 years old. With the team not competing this year and the possibility of waiting for an extra year of control, part of me understands why they might wait to call him up.
With that being said, it’s definitely been a rough season for the White Sox and knowing you have top talent that is waiting for their opportunity to be called up can get frustrating at times. Especially when that talent is someone like Eloy Jimenez who has shown that Minor League pitching has not given him any trouble.
He’s MLB ready now and there’s not much else for him to prove in the minors. He’s making his case stronger and stronger with each game he plays. There’s a great chance that Eloy Jimenez will be one of the September call-ups this season, but truthfully, he’s ready to be called up now and has been for quite some time. He’s done everything he can to earn his final promotion and it’s time for him to be rewarded by getting the call.
Follow Sean Williams on Twitter-Feature Photo Credit: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights