Chicago Cubs Prospects Progress, Part 13: Eloy Jimenez

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Chicago Cubs Prospects Progress, Part 13: Eloy Jimenez

Chicago Cubs

cubs azl spring training logoLast time: Ryan Williams.

We are rapidly approaching Spring Training, and that means we are rapidly approaching the end of the Prospects Progress series. Soon I’ll transition into some higher level systemic summary pieces, and then into the spring edition of the Top 40 Prospects List, and then baseball is again underway (and the Minor League Daily with it).

To help pass the time while we wait for baseball to return, let’s take a look at Eloy Jimenez, ranked thirteenth back in the midseason Top 40.

Since joining the Cubs as part of a highly-touted pair of International Free Agent hitters, Jimenez has taken a backseat to the other half of the pair, shortstop Gleyber Torres, in many recent prospect rankings. Even though I do have some concerns with Torres, it is fair to keep him ranked ahead of Jimenez. That does not mean, however, that we should dismiss Jimenez. If anything, we might be undervaluing him.

Jimenez might have the highest ceiling of any hitter currently in the farm system, but he lacks the polish of many of the Cubs’ other prospects. Watching his tape you can see glimpses of potential stardom, but right now they are only glimpses. Jimenez is a definitely a work in project, and his prospect ranking tends to reflect that.

To start with, take a look at a Jimenez home run from July 1, 2015:

We are not going to find too many eighteen-year-old hitters who show such easy, effortless power. (Then again, when a left-handed pitcher leaves a pitching sitting in the strike zone on the outer part of the plate to a right handed slugger, the resulting long ball should look easy.) The swing itself, on the other hand, could be better.

For a better look at the swing up close, take a look at this batting practice video shot by John Arguello in the Instructional League this fall:

The best way I can characterize Jimenez’s swing right now is as a lot of individual parts that haven’t quite meshed into a finished product yet. In short, it is pretty much what we’d expect from a very talented teenager playing professional baseball. There is a lot of good stuff going on there, but there is work to do as well.

The fun part is that is Jimenez is having success in some key areas even while his swing is coming together. Two of the first stats to look at when checking on a minor league hitter are walk rate and strikeout rate, and with Short Season A Eugene last year, Jimenez put up solid numbers in both categories. His walk rate of 6.0% is not exceptional, but it is perfectly fine for a young slugger. His strikeout rate of 17.2% is on the low side for a guy with his power profile and size, and that is probably a good sign. His ISO of .134 is good, but simply an indicator of the power potential lurking within his 6’4″, 205 lb frame.

The Cubs, and their fans, will need to be patient with this young man. Jimenez isn’t the sort of prospect that is going to jump into the Major Leagues after a year or two of development. He’s more likely to the be the type that moves up the ladder one stage at a time for a few years, all the while making improvements that do not always show up on the stat sheet, until suddenly all the individual adjustments he has made come together and he explodes into the prospect spotlight. We could see that happen as soon as 2016, but I suspect 2017 is more likely. Next season, I think, will be a development year in which we see Jimenez continue to show flashes of potential (as well as periods of struggling) all while continuing to make gradual and systemic improvements.

Long term, he projects as a corner outfielder with the range and the arm to handle left or right and the sort of bat that could fit in the middle of a lot of batting orders. His power should be his main tool, but that is probably going to come with quite a few strikeouts. Unless the strikeouts are so numerous that they significantly reduce his overall offensive value (I’m not worried about this yet), he could be a quality addition to most Major League lineups for quite a few years.

Late 2018 is just about the earliest I would expect to see Jimenez in the Major Leagues right now, but a strong start to the 2016 season could accelerate that calendar a bit. The Cubs have absolutely no reason to rush him, but if all goes well and he is clobbering Low-A South Bend at the start of the 2016 season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him bumped to High-A Myrtle Beach in late July or August.

Jimenez is also likely to be a frequently mentioned name around the trade deadline. As one of the highest ceiling hitters in the organization, he is going to draw some trade interest. How much interest (and how willing the Cubs are to part with him) probably depends on how he handles his first taste of a full season league. The Cubs are loaded with outfielders, though, so dealing Jimenez would be dealing from a position of strength. To a rebuilding team looking to stock up on potential impact hitters, Jimenez could be an attractive target (particularly next winter).

As for where he ranks in the organization right now, I can make a case for Jimenez falling just about anywhere from about six to about fifteen. I don’t think he is the upper echelon of the system (not yet, anyway), but probably is in the next tier down. The future looks bright for this young slugger, but it is likely to take a few years before we can enjoy watching him on the biggest stage.

Author: Luke Blaize

Luke Blaize is the Minor League Editor at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @ltblaize.