Prospect Update: Is Eloy Walking His Way to AA?

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By Todd Johnson

Eloy Jimenez, the Cubs 20-year old #1 prospect, now has 15 games under his belt at Advanced A Myrtle Beach. He played 6 games in left, 3 in right, and 6 games as the DH or a PH. His stats look good as he is hitting .273 with an OBP over .400 while cranking out 4 HRs and driving in 13. His strikeout rate is 14.5% while he is walking at 16.5%, 10% above normal for him. He is a little pull happy with 59% of hits to left, 19.1% to center, and 21.4% to right. I could go on and on about every stat of his in this short sample size and they would be amazing stats. Every one of them signals that he is the top prospect in the Cubs system. That only leaves one question to ask: “What is he still doing in Myrtle Beach?”

My initial answer is, “I don’t know.”

His throwing shoulder, which he injured in late spring training, looks to be fine. He doesn’t seem to be challenged. He tracks most pitches well. He is able to easily identify the type of pitch. He rarely gets fooled. I did notice in the past week, that he was swinging with more gusto than normal. Rather than putting a good stroke on the ball, he was trying to kill it. Those at-bats didn’t last too long after going 0-5 and 0-4 on back-t0-back nights. Last night, he looked back in control with a a HR and a double in the same game.

How He Is Being Pitched?
When other writers like Tommy Meyers (@FullCountTommy) look at Eloy’s stats, the first thing to pop out is the BB%.

As a result of this tweet, I started going back to get a good look at how Eloy was being pitched. I opened his game logs on MiLB.com. Then, using the Calendar function on MilB Scoreboard, I was able to go to those dates he took a base on balls and I was able to use the “plays” function on Gameday to get a look at where pitchers threw to him and the sequence. I was looking, hopefully, to find a pattern of approach against Eloy.

One thing I kept in mind was that three of the teams in the Carolina League also have affiliates in the Midwest League where Eloy played in 2016 in South Bend. Buies Creek, Carolina, and Lynchburg pitchers have seen what Eloy can do with a bat.

The patterns I found follow three main designs:
1. Good at-bats – Eloy was able to fight off pitches and not give in. He was being a good hitter with a good approach.

2. The “We’re not giving you anything close to hit” walk.

3. A steady diet of down and away

The Bottom Line: How much longer will Eloy have to stay in Myrtle Beach?
Considering he just went through an 0-9 streak, he is learning how to adapt to how he is being pitched. Let’s look at how he adjusting. Here is the graphic from Gameday on his HR in the bottom of the 8th.

The pattern looks the same for the balls. The pitcher tried to come up and in on his hands and Jimenez destroyed it. It’s hard to describe, but Eloy has amazing pitch recognition skills. He can pick up the ball very quickly out of the pitcher’s hand and be able to pick up the spin and rotation as well.

Here is the home run in real time.

One other thing consider about promoting Eloy is that Myrtle Beach is also in the middle of a chase for a playoff berth as is AA Tennessee. I don’t think there is any rush to get him to AA. I tend to think it will happen over the All-Star break between the 19th and 21st of June. While Eloy’s talent is undeniable, he still has some work to do. Will that work be best served in Myrtle Beach or in Tennessee?

I tend to think Eloy would be better off in Tennessee where he could snuggle in front of or behind Jason Vosler in the batting order. Then, there would be no one to pitch around. He would see more consistent balls in/around the strike zone.

Eloy showed this spring that he can hit major league pitching. Where will his development best be served the rest of this year?

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