There was a lot of hype for Eloy Jimenez entering 2019, and while he was solid in his rookie season you could argue that he failed to live up to the lofty expectations:
468 At Bats
.267 Batting Average (125 Hits)
31 Home Runs
0 Stolen Bases
.315 On Base Percentage
.513 Slugging Percentage
.308 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Missed time played a role, as it limited his opportunities for RBI/R, but the bigger questions are whether or not he can maintain the power (27.2% HR/FB) and if his approach is going to be good enough to tap into it.
His power potential has never been a question, even if he can’t quite maintain his HR/FB. Even a regression there isn’t a red flag, especially since it could be offset by simply putting a few more balls in the air (47.9% groundball rate). This scouting report from Baseball America, prior to 2019, is the best way of summarizing the upside:
“He has at least double-plus power to all sectors now, and he hit a system-best 22 home runs in 2018. He has shown he can hit the ball out to all fields. His coiled lower half and rubber band-like takeaway in his swing remind some evaluators of Miguel Cabrera. He also shows an impressive knack for learning how pitchers plan to attack him, and then adjusting to the strategy within the same game. These qualities should allow Jimenez to be a plus hitter with plus-plus power.”
The mention of him also being a “plus hitter” is important, especially as he struggled with a 15.3% strikeout rate and 36.7% O-Swing%. He needs to figure out how to adjust, as opposing pitchers already limited the number of fastballs he saw (49.81% Hard pitches). It makes sense, considering these Whiff%:
- Hard – 10.02%
- Breaking Balls – 22.38%
- Offspeed – 23.64%
Even as he thrived in September (.340 with 9 HR), his approach seemed to deteriorate (16.4% SwStr%, 39.6% O-Swing%). Given his makeup there’s a good chance he figures it out, and while strikeouts will remain a part of his game just keeping it in the 26% range would be enough considering his power and Hard% (38.1%). The latter supports better than a .308 BABIP, and you put those skills into the middle of an improved lineup and all signs are positive.
It all comes together for the following projection:
.270 (155-575), 38 HR, 100 RBI, 85 R, 0 SB, .308 BABIP, .321 OBP, .522 SLG
There is the potential for an even better BABIP, and that would add to the positive outlook. He’s not there yet, and it could be a year or two away, but is it impossible to think that he matures into a Top 10 outfielder as soon as 2020? He likely isn’t available “on the cheap”, but this could be your last chance to buy him before he fully emerges.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball America