Black MLB Players #16: Eloy Jiménez

Background+ Path to the MLB

Eloy Jiménez is a twenty three year old leftfielder from Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Eloy began playing baseball at the age of nine, primarily as an infielder. When he was fourteen he moved to the outfield, and has played there ever since. He plays for the Chicago White Sox, but was originally signed by the Chicago Cubs as an international free agent under a set of rules set under the 2017–2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB owners and the MLB Players Association(MLBPA). I frequently mention international free agents/amateurs, so below I will provide the definition for what an international free agent/amateur is and the criteria for being eligible as one:

Under the CBA, international amateurs are defined as follows:

• Player resides outside of the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico and has not been enrolled in high school in any of those locations within the past calendar year.
• Player is at least 16 years of age or will turn 16 years of age prior to Sept. 1 of the current signing period.

Any player meeting that criteria becomes eligible to sign a Minor League contract with a Major League organization for a signing bonus that fits within said team’s allotted pool. Players that sign for a total bonus of $10,000 or less do not count against a team’s allotted bonus pool.

Foreign professionals — defined as players who are at least 25 years of age and have played as a professional in a foreign league recognized by Major League Baseball for a minimum of six seasons — maintain exemption from the international bonus pool.

Jiménez was seen as the top international prospect eligible to be signed as an amateur free agent in the 2013 J2 Class(named for the date when the annual signing period starts: July 2nd.) He was seen as a five tool prospect, being able to hit for 1. contact & 2. power, while having above average 3. speed in the field and on the basepaths, to go with the ability to 4. field his position well, and a 5. strong throwing arm. Because of these qualities, along with the fact that many scouts thought he was intelligent and a quick learner, the Cubs gave Jiménez a $2.8 million dollar singing bonus and officially signed him on August 1st, 2013.

Jiménez’s professional career began in 2014 at the age of 17, starting in the Arizona Rookie League, where MLB organizations send their youngest players between the ages of 16–19 to play against similarly aged competition. Jiménez started out moving one level at a time through the MiLB, but as he got stronger and matured physically he took a leap from a statistical standpoint, showing the offensive capabilities that made him such a coveted international free agent. He was also plagued with hamstring and shoulder injuries throughout his minor league career, and despite these issues he still performed remarkably and was thought highly of throughout the realms of professional baseball. In 2017, Jiménez was traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Chicago White Sox as the centerpiece in a prospect package that sent Jose Quintana from the White Sox to the Cubs. From 2017–2019, Jiménez was seen as a top 15 prospect in baseball, being as high as 8th and as low as 14th. Jiménez’s ability to hit for contact and power revealed itself, and his athleticism and ability to field his position well diminished due to his large size and frequent injuries. Jiménez also received praise for his work ethic, maturity, and leadership as he worked hard even though he was already one of the best players wherever he went.

Eloy Jiménez playing for the Chicago White Sox AAA affiliate in Charlotte

Jiménez received the largest contract extension ever given to a professional baseball player that had not yet played in MLB before the 2019 season, agreeing to a six year extension for $43 million dollars with the Chicago White Sox. Both parties reached an agreement on an extension after Jiménez filed a grievance through his agent after the 2018 season due to the fact that he did not get called up to the MLB level, even though it was clear he had nothing left to prove in the minors. MLB organizations have a strategy to keep their best prospects under team control for as long as they possibly can, and for as cheap as they possibly can. This involves calculating when to call up players in order to keep their service time clock below a point where they can avoid giving a player Super 2 Status, which rewards a player with four years of service time instead of just 3 years, which is the standard. Arbitration is another mess in itself, so I’ll have to write an article on that sooner or later.

Basically, the White Sox gave their top prospect a contract extension because they believe he was going to be an above average player, and bought out two years of his free agency for him to get a raise right away, along with the guarantee that he was going to be on the MLB roster from the beginning of the 2019 season. Eloy Jiménez made his major league debut on March 28th, 2019, and played 122 games at the MLB level. He missed some time due to injury, but overall showed the skillset that made him one of the best prospects during his time in the minors. He only hit .267 and didn’t walk much, while striking out over a 100 times in 122 games, but Jiménez hit 31 home runs and drove in almost 70 runs, showing his potential as an elite middle of the order hitter. Eloy improved upon his 2019 season where he finished fourth in American League Rookie of the Year voting by making better contact at the plate while still driving the ball, and playing in 55/60 games in the 2020 season.

Player Profile

Eloy Jiménez is 6'4'’, and weighs 235 pounds. He bats and throws right handed, and is primarily a leftfielder. From an offensive standpoint, I think Eloy has the capabilities to be one of the most productive hitters in the MLB, due to his uncommon abilities to hit for contact, and elite power. He can hit the ball to all fields due to his contact abilities, and his large build allows him frequently hit the ball hard for extra base hits. Since being called up to the MLB, Jiménez has been measured in the 80th percentile or better for metrics that measure how hard he is hitting the ball, quality of contact, along metrics that are based on patterns of performance and underlying data. He has a simple right handed swing that can do damage, and profiles as a top of the lineup centerpiece.

These two charts show Eloy Jiménez’s statcast data. They both show that he is an elite hitter, but the increases between 2019 & 2020 show Eloy’s ability to learn and make adjustments, which scouts raved about. This is what makes me and a lot of other people confident that he will perform at an elite level for years.

From a defensive and baserunning standpoint, Jiménez profiles as below average due to his large size, and a history of lower body injuries that have sapped some of his athleticism. Jiménez plays leftfield for this reason, but some project that he might have to move to a permanent DH(designated hitter) role if he cannot improve marginally and also find a way to stay healthy. Jiménez is a diligent worker and intelligent, so he knows how he can improve in all areas of his game in order to give his team the best shot to win that he possibly can, and with Luis Robert playing next to him in centerfield, there isn’t much pressure on him from a defensive standpoint. Jiménez will not steal many bases, but he can go from 1st to 3rd frequently, and will not hurt you on bases.

Conclusion

Eloy Jiménez has consistently been one of the best players on the field since he was a teenager, literally. He may have some flaws in his game from a defensive and athletic standpoint, but the value he provides as a hitter cannot be overlooked. For someone thats so big with long arms, he has clean mechanics and no trouble competing against the best pitchers the MLB has to offer. In six minor league seasons he put up a .311/.359/.519 slashline, and in his 177 games at the MLB level he has been pretty good. .276/.321/.527 in a little over a full season’s worth of games is good for a 123 OPS+, or around 23% better than the average MLB player offensively. Jiménez is a quick learner and a hard worker, so I have high expectations as he accrues more major league service time and gets more opportunities to improve and compete. The key for Eloy Jiménez having success at the MLB level is staying healthy and building upon a great skillset with consistency and effort.

Sources:

http://m.mlb.com/glossary/transactions/international-amateur-free-agency-bonus-pool-money#:~:text=Player%20is%20at%20least%2016,within%20said%20team's%20allotted%20pool.

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I use this blog to cover Black baseball players from all over the African diaspora in MiLB & MLB and review TV series, films, novels, comic books, anime,. etc.

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Patrick Ellington Jr.

Patrick Ellington Jr.

I use this blog to cover Black baseball players from all over the African diaspora in MiLB & MLB and review TV series, films, novels, comic books, anime,. etc.

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