The Chicago White Sox made news on Wednesday when they chose to option top prospect Eloy Jimenez to Triple-A Charlotte. Although he was expected to be optioned at the end of spring training due to service time, the team sending him down is a bit surprising. Jimenez is expected to be called up on April 15th after the team gains another year of control, but following his spring training struggles that may be in jeopardy.
Coming into spring training, Jimenez was expected to continue where he left off last season as he hit 22 home runs in 108 games with both Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. He went 4 for 26 with one home run, three RBIs, and no walks. Last season, he hit .337 and drove in 77 RBIs as many anticipated 2019 to be the season when he was finally called up.
Jimenez’s numbers also have led many around baseball to pick him as a potential favorite for American League Rookie of Year this season.
As great as his potential is at the plate, it is the other parts of his game that are concerning for the team as general manager Rick Hahn and the front office believe that he still needs to improve his defense before being ready to be called up.
Being sent to Charlotte will be a good thing for Jimenez from a pressure standpoint as the team will have several of its next few games televised. The White Sox will have televised games on Friday and Saturday against the Cubs and Dodgers.
If he were to have bad at-bats against the Cubs, it would be in front of all Chicago baseball fans probably leading them to question his struggles at the plate. Furthermore, he will get more at-bat and more time in the field with the extra two weeks in Charlotte also.
It is still expected that Jimenez will be called up by mid-April, but if he struggles when the season starts for the Charlotte Knights, it could lead to the White Sox delaying his promotion to the majors. If the White Sox get off to a bad start coupled with their top prospect struggling in the minors, it could be May or June before the team considers calling him up.
Jimenez’s struggles shouldn’t be a concern now but do need to be rectified sooner rather than later given the state of the White Sox organization. Several of the team’s prospects have missed extended time due to significant injuries last season and now in spring training.
The failure to land free agents Bryce Harper or Manny Machado led to the team being heavily scrutinized by both the media and fan base. Jimenez potential to one of the game’s best hitters is one of the few positives the White Sox have this season which is why he needs to begin hitting as he has so far to start his career.