Last summer I got a little cocky when I declared it to be “The Summer of Eloy.” Jimenez only played 57 games in a league that played 76. He hit seven homeruns and drove in 33 RBIs. He hit .284 and had an OPS of .746. Although he struck out 43 times, he also walked 15 and stole three bases. He displayed an excellent arm and played mostly in left field for Eugene. I thought 2015 was going to be a breakout year for the young Dominican 18-year-old. Not that I was wrong, but I was not right. Missing 19 games will do that to a prediction.
This summer could be his summer as he makes a jump to low A South Bend. South Bend is in somewhat of a pitcher’s league just because the first month is a little cold in the upper Midwest. Last year’s homerun leader in the Midwest league, Bobby Bradley, had 27 homeruns, 10 more than the nearest hitter. For Jimenez, I just want to see him play. South Bend plays a 138 games over the course of five months and that should provide a lot of opportunities for Eloy to improve, make a jump in his development, and breakout as one of the top prospects in the system.
Jimenez’s weakness has always been game play. He did just fine last year at Eugene. When you look at his rookie season, he played just 42 games in Arizona and hit only .227. In just one year, his average rose over 50 points. At South Bend, Jimenez will be 2-3 years younger than the average player in the league. He just turned 19 in late November.
Making the jump to South Bend this year, Eloy should have several goals including these:
- Stay healthy – I think we have a glimpse of what Eloy could be, what we want to Eloy to be, and what he is. For the future to happen, he’s got to stay healthy. To date, he’s only played, combined between two levels of baseball, 99 games. And in those 99 games, he only has 10 home runs. I think more is expected of him as he begins to reach his potential. 100 games in the minor leagues is not a lot, especially when you are slated to play 138 at the age of 19.
- Leadership – One of the things that came out of fall instructs was the change in attitude of Eloy from a young kid into a young man. Several writers commented on the leadership role Jimenez took last fall in instructs. Eloy was often seen taking younger players under his wing in the field, on the sidelines, and in the dugout. One thing you have to remember, he’s only been in the United States for one and a half years. While he is seen as a top prospect physically, his mental and team make up might be more than anyone could’ve hoped for.
- Patience – Eloy is not going become a 35 to 40 homerun hitter overnight. Just because he’s 6 foot four and 205 pounds at 19 does not mean that he’s automatically going to South Bend and rename it “Jack City.” I think what he’s focusing on at this point in his career is being a good hitter, waiting for his pitch while laying off others. His approach at the plate has changed tremendously between 17-year-old Eloy and 18-year-old Eloy. I think in 2016 we will see that patience continue to develop and hopefully pay off with more power.
If you look at early scouting reports of Eloy here is what they had to say about his potential:
Physical presence with a projectable body; big frame; strong hands; […] big strong legs that look a little heavy; tough player to judge because he looks like he is still figuring out how to efficiently use his body; raw; stance at the plate is balanced and natural; loads his hands well, and stays relatively balanced on takes; stable lower, staying balanced through the swing; plus bat speed that should project to at least plus-plus raw power; swing is presently way too long and sweepy to the ball; has no present feel for the barrel against live pitching; ball jumps off the bat, but struggles to square up the baseball; sometimes looks better when he swings and misses than when he makes contact; to me the swing looks low effort relative to the power he can generate.
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.
He’s come a long way in two years. Actually, I think his hit tool, approach, and patience are developing much, much faster than anticipated. I think there’s an influence on him, whether it is from Manny Ramirez, or other coaches, to be more selective, to be a better hitter, and not just to try and hit the ball as far as he can every time.
Out of all the prospects to see this year, Eloy is the one I most want to see. There’s his sheer athleticism at the plate and the ability to drive the ball, not at will, but with authority. There is no other Cub prospect like him currently in the system. In fact, I think he is the only prospect the Cubs have who could overtake Gleyber Torres as the number one prospect in the system in the next two years. He has that much potential. Hopefully, this year, will the “Summer of Eloy” in South Bend.