There are no take backs in Major League Baseball, but if you go back to July of 2017, perhaps the Cubs think a little differently about trading one of their top prospects to their Chicago counterparts. Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez is a budding star. In his rookie season back in 2019, he hit .267 with 31 home runs and 79 RBI across 122 games played. Then, he took it up a notch in 2020. In 55 games in the shortened season, he slashed .296/.332/.559 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI. Just to illustrate how prolific his year was, this would have been a stat line of his over 162 games at his 2020 pace:
.296 average with 41 home runs, 41 doubles, 120 RBI and 76 runs scored.
At just 24 years young, there’s plenty of optimism surrounding Jimenez, and many believe that he’ll develop into a .300 average with 30+ home runs kind of guy. Well, look at the stat line above. HIs 2020 pace wasn’t too far off from that!
In 2019, his barrel rate (12.8%) and exit velocity (91.1 mph) were excellent. So, what does he do? Of course, he turns it up a notch. He posted a barrel rate of 16.5 percent and an average exit velocity of 92.4 miles per hour, which came in at the 96th and 91st percentile respectively. Furthermore, his hard-hit rate last year came in the 98th percentile, and one has to wonder what could have been if he traded some ground balls in for line drives and fly balls.
The hard contact went up, which is excellent, but in a perfect world, the ground ball and fly ball rates would have swapped, meaning there was more of the latter than the former. Jimenez’s gargantuan power to all parts of the field needs to be utilized, and that means lofting balls, and not hitting 104 mph ground balls.
Jimenez was able to cut his strikeout rate by about two percentage points, which is a big deal. He improved upon his swinging strike rate, and despite posting a significantly higher O-Swing rate than 2019, he at least made more contact, both in and out of the zone, so it didn’t hurt him too much. Ideally, he stays in the zone more, because that is where the magic happens.
His numbers were fueled from a strong month of August. Ten of his 14 home runs came in 28 August games. Twenty-four of his 41 RBI came in 28 August games. Outside of a powerful month of August, how did Jimenez fare?
August: 28 games, ten home runs, 24 RBI, 24.4 K% and 5.9 BB%
Outside of August: 26 games, four home runs, 17 RBI, 25.2 K% and 4.7 BB%
Yes, he was still solid, but those 2020 numbers were inflated by an unsustainable month of August. You can see in the rolling graphic below, just how sky-high his run in August was:
Now, keep in mind that he has that in his arsenal, and it’s no mirage. He makes hard contact, just about all the time! Take a look at this graphic:
There are certainly some durability concerns with Jimenez. In 2019, he went on the injured list twice, once for a high ankle sprain that cost him about two weeks, and then a contusion that cost him just under two weeks. By no means he is injury prone, but he is prone to missing games. That’ll be something to consider as we hopefully see a full season’s workload. By no means does this mean you drop him down your boards, but it’s something to consider.
Is 2021 the year that Jimenez hits his stride and hits 30+ home runs with a .300+ average? I think you have a better shot at the former. Now, in terms of the latter, he won’t be far off, as he likely has a floor of around .285. We might be a year or two away from his breakout season, but 2021 is still going to be an excellent campaign for the defensively-challenged slugger. There’s absolutely an avenue to it, but I envision 2022 being the first year that Jimenez surpasses both of those thresholds.
His current average draft position (ADP), per NFBC data, is on par with where it should be, and while he’s not a guy I’m going to push up far past his ADP, I don’t mind taking him at value. A .285 batting average with 30 home runs is a reasonable floor for Jimenez in 2021.