There are so many storylines swirling around the Chicago Cubs, especially this time of year, that it’s almost easy to let one of the bigger ones in recent memory fall out of our minds. I speak specifically of the Cubs blowing out their international spending pool last year, and landing – among other top talents – the top two prospects on the international market: Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez, and Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres. Each received a huge signing bonus at the tender age of 16, and each is currently playing in Extended Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona.
How are they doing? How do they look? How do they project?
Well, Baseball Prospectus has a great take on each player, and it’s totally worth a read. It’s a subscription article, so I’m going to offer you only a snippet of what’s said – BP’s gotta earn a living, you know – but you’ll get a sense of how scouts are receiving these youngsters.
On Jimenez, the biggest takeaway for BP was the rawness and the power. His swing is described as including low effort power, but “way too long and sweepy,” and he’s not particularly good yet at barreling up the ball with any consistency. He’s a huge, strong young man, though, and his projectability is fantastic (which is why he got paaaaaid). Here’s a portion of the conclusion on him:
The upside is immense, but so is the risk. Jimenez looks a little awkward at times, and I think he will struggle to hit in the AZL this year. I am still an optimist, however, because he does show some looseness and flexibility to his actions at the plate and in the field. Furthermore, has strengths you can’t teach, while his obvious weaknesses seem correctable with coaching, experience, and natural maturity.
As for Torres, BP sees more polish and more natural athleticism (understandable, given that Jimenez is an outfielder and Torres is a shortstop). His approach at the plate appears “very natural,” with good balance and timing. He’s still got to learn the strike zone, and there’s probably never going to be a ton of power, but he’s already recognizing breaking pitches well. Long-term, he could stick at shortstop, which is going to be one of the most important things when it comes to his prospect value.
When will you finally get to see these kids in action? Well, assuming you don’t mean “see” as in “game action,” the answer is probably “very soon.” The typical first level of play for international signees is in international summer ball, either the Dominican Summer League or the Venezuelan Summer League. The VSL has already started, and you’ll note that Torres is not playing in it. That’s a pretty good sign that he’s going to start out in Stateside ball, which is impressive for a 17-year-old prospect. The DSL starts in about a week, so we’ll see if Jimenez stays in the States (as BP implies he will), or heads back to the Dominican Republic to play. That wouldn’t preclude him from coming back later in the year, by the way.
If Jimenez and/or Torres starts in Rookie Ball – the Arizona League – they’ll be playing around this time next month, when the league kicks off. It would be very exciting to see them starting out in Rookie Ball, given their age. I wouldn’t expect that either would reach short season Low-A Boise at any point this year, but there’s your pipe dream.