The White Sox made a significant investment in Eloy Jimenez before he ever played a major league game, signing the outfielder to a six-year, $43MM extension last March, and it already looks like a wise decision. The deal Jimenez inked was then a record pact for a prospect with no major league service time, but teammate and fellow outfielder Luis Robert eclipsed that mark when he landed a six-year, $50MM guarantee this past winter.
In signing Jimenez, the White Sox obviated the need to manipulate his service time, clearing the way for the then-consensus top prospect to spend all of the 2019 campaign in the majors. Jimenez didn’t get off to a great start in the first few months of his age-22 season, but his production trended way upward in the second half, leading to an above-average batting line of .267/.315/.513 (116 wRC+) with 31 home runs over 504 plate appearances. And Statcast backed up that production, crediting Jimenez with a .349 expected weighted on-base average (compared to a real wOBA of .343), a hard-hit percentage in the majors’ 92nd percentile and an average exit velocity that ranked in the 87th percentile.
If you want red flags from Jimenez’s rookie season, a couple stand out. For one, even during his second-half surge, he didn’t draw many free passes. His 6 percent walk rate sat well below the league-average mark of 8.5. On the defensive side, Jimenez wasn’t exactly a Gold Glover in left field. Despite finishing in the game’s 70th percentile in Statcast’s Sprint Speed metric, he ended with minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-11 Outs Above Average and a minus-5.1 Ultimate Zone Rating in the grass. Jimenez’s defensive struggles helped limit him to 1.9 fWAR and 1.4 bWAR during his initial campaign, essentially rendering him an average performer.
The long-suffering White Sox now have designs on being much better than average, considering how active they were in upgrading their roster during the offseason. A sizable leap in overall output from Jimenez in Year 2 of his career could go a long way in helping the team accomplish that in 2020. The question is: How productive do you think he’ll be this season? (Poll links for app users)