Unless you live under a rock you know who Eloy Jimenez is. He was acquired from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade from 2017. He is currently the top ranked prospect in the White Sox system, and third overall on MLB pipeline.
Eloy first jumped on the scene when our Northside rivals, the Cubs, signed him as an international free agent in 2013. 2014 was his first season in the Cubs system, it was a bit underwhelming, but he was only 18 years old. However in 2015 he quickly rebounded, after being promoted to short season A ball and then sent over to the Arizona Fall League after the season. His 2016 season was spent in High A, where he continued to show progress by hitting 14 home runs and posting a .369 on base percentage. Eloy’s success quickly caught the eyes of White Sox GM Rick Hahn and President Kenny Williams and on 7/13/2017 the two clubs completed their 26th trade amongst each other.
After the White Sox acquired Eloy in 2017, they assigned him to advanced A and then moved him to AA. 2017 saw Eloy was on three different teams, where he hit 19 homers and was on base almost 38 percent of the entire season. In 2018 Eloy split time between Birmingham (AA) and Charlotte (AAA), and in 108 total games between AA/AAA he slashed .337/.384/.577 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs.
2019 seems to be the call up year for Eloy, but he will need to spend additional time in AAA. The White Sox front office states that Eloy needs to “work on his defense”, because you know, all the top prospects seem to have to “work on their defense.” That is until a switch is magically flipped in the prospect, 16 or so days into the season. If you’re going to have him “work on his defense,” why doesn’t the organization work him at first base?
There are two reasons why a switch to 1B will be beneficial. 1) The Sox clearly have a need at first after the 2019 season (with the possible Jose Abreu departure) and because 1B is lower on the defensive spectrum. As stated in my first base article here, 1B in the Sox system is pretty shallow. Moving Eloy to 1B will open up possibilities in the future for what will be a crowded outfield. Don’t get me wrong, a crowded outfield is a good problem to have, but in today’s MLB position flexibility is a a very useful attribute. The trend has already made its way to the NL East. We are beginning to see the Phillies encourage a position transition with one of their young stars. Defensive position flexibility can separate teams from finishing their seasons in September or October, if you catch my drift.
Homers, RBI’s and offense are sexy, but the most overlooked part of baseball, is defense. Poor defense can be a killer. You don’t have to look very far to see what a subpar/poor defensive outfield can do to a team. In 2018, the Philadelphia Phillies fell out of the playoff race because of their poor defense. Last year, the Phillies were the second worst team at defensive runs saved (-20), yeah, their defense gave up 20 extra runs this past season due to bad defense. A key contributor to last years poor defense is their brightest star, Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins was the second worst outfielder in baseball by the same metric last season. Which is why the Phillies were proactive in signing Andrew McCutchen, so they can transition Rhys to first base full time.
Bad defense in the outfield can hurt a young team like the White Sox. In a playoff hunt, young teams can’t afford to make that many fielding mistakes. So defensively the 2019 Sox will already have a marginal third baseman and a slower left fielder (Eloy). A single can quickly turn into a double or easy outs can turn into opposing runs. Eloy’s defense can be even more exposed in LF, especially with the rise in MLB teams using “the shift.”
In 2018 teams shifted against lefties thirty percent of the time, with the second baseman playing a shallow right field. It covers up a lot of mistakes and range issues of the first basemen. Righties were shifted against just short of nine percent of plate appearances, doing the subpar defensive left fielder no favors. So by transitioning Eloy to 1B, “the shift,” would give Eloy extra defensive help. Whereas by leaving Eloy in LF the Sox would be at a disadvantage using “the shift.”
No matter what position Eloy plays, the Sox will need him in the 2019 lineup. I would bet his big league call-up to be 4/15/2019, against the Royals. It’ll be 18 days into the season, 2 more days than necessary, but it allows the White Sox front office more contract control and Eloy 2 more days of extra rest (and that Royals series is at home, upping ticket sales) Eloy will miss a big road series with the Yankees, but business in business. I also, find it funny that his first game will be on Tax Day. AHHHH the irony of the business side of baseball falling on tax day.
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