Jimenez Sets Sights On Strong Sophomore Season

Eloy Jimenez wants to have more consistency at the plate and improve his defense.

Chris Emma
January 27, 2020 - 1:10 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- When Eloy Jimenez stepped into the box for his first MLB at-bat, he was a confident top prospect ready to rake in the big leagues.

Jimenez quickly realized the challenge that lay ahead for his rookie season. On the White Sox's Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium last March, Royals right-hander Brad Keller attacked him with a fastball for strike one then three sliders out of the zone. Jimenez went down swinging on four pitches -- and realized he would be pitched like a veteran in his first season.

"I was surprised at the beginning because I'm like, 'It's going to be like that,'" Jimenez recalled at SoxFest over the weekend. "It was hard hard. But at the end, it felt like I was playing for 10 years here."

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Jimenez struggled for part of his rookie campaign as he faced the best of the best. He admitted he battled confidence issues at times, but that eventually changed as Jimenez made the necessary adjustments to MLB pitching and hit like like he was billed to as the White Sox's top prospect.

Jimenez posted as slash line of .292/.328/.542 in the second half -- a jump from his line of .241/.303/.482 in the first half -- and finished strong by hitting .340 during September. He finished his rookie season by showcasing what kind of hitter he could be.

"Just watching him, first year and all the stuff they did, it's crazy," new White Sox outfielder Nomar Mazara said of Jimenez. "He's young. He's got a long way to go. He's going to be here for a while."

Jimenez, 23, is one of several budding youngsters whom the White Sox hope can take off in 2020 and help lead them to the playoffs. Another one is top prospect Luis Robert, who recently sought advice from Jimenez about how to withstand adversity when one arrives in the big leagues. Robert is expected to be the White Sox's starting center fielder on Opening Day after signing a long-term extension in early January that renders his service time considerations moot.

"The beginning is going to be difficult, but you need to keep your trust and your confidence in yourself," Robert said, recalling Jimenez's advice.

Jimenez hit .267 with 31 homers, 79 RBIs and an .828 OPS in 122 games in 2019. He had two stints on the injured list that interrupted his season -- and which probably prevented him from posting more than 40 homers as a rookie.

Though Jimenez made adjustments at the plate, he never overcame his struggles in left field. He was tagged with -11 defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs, which ranked 48th among 50 eligible outfielders.

Jimenez played winter ball and focused on his defense this offseason. He wants to become a more rounded player in the field and never wants to be forced into the role of full-time designated hitter.

"F--- that," Jimenez said of potentially being a designated hitter.

"It's going to be better," he added of his defense. "I put more effort this offseason. It's going to be better."

Since embarking on their rebuild in December 2016, the White Sox have set their sights on a young core leading them to perennial postseason success. The target in mind for contention was 2020, and it's here.

The White Sox have invested more than $200 million in veteran players this offseason to complement the young core. After many challenges to this point, they're ready for better ahead.

That includes Jimenez.

"With the team we have," he said, "if we don't make the playoffs, I'll be disappointed."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.