The most optimistic outlook for the White Sox big league performance this year was “bad but entertaining,” between the ongoing development of players like Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, and more. Instead of that, the White Sox are straight-up just bad. Moncada has gone through hot and cold streaks and injuries and is currently sitting at .241/.326/.441, while Anderson has been even more sporadic and is hitting .242/.307/.456. Giolito, of course, has struggled with few exceptions, and has an ERA of 7.53 through 49 innings (37 walks, 27 strikeouts).
At 23, 25, and 23 years old respectively, none of those stats are cause for clothing-rending panic, but surrounded by a team that isn’t performing much better, it doesn’t make for compelling baseball. The offense has been middle-of-the-pack, while their pitching is doing their part to inflate the major-league average ERA this year. Other than Old Faithful Jose Abreu, the endlessly entertaining Yolmer Sanchez, and the emergence of Reynaldo Lopez as staff ace (despite yesterday’s start), there hasn’t been a lot of fun stuff to watch. It hasn’t been a fun year, and fun, I’ve heard, is good.
Maybe that’s why the Sox, never an attendance powerhouse, have the third-lowest average attendance to date, and are already over 110,000 guests behind last year’s number at this time. I’m not attendance-shaming here. I don’t blame people for not spending money on a largely trash product, especially with a minimum $20 price tag on parking alone. I don’t blame people for not wanting to take their kids to see a team that’s 8-18 at home. Save the ballpark for a chance at a good memory. Support the team in person if you want and can, by game ticket, TV tune-in, or website visit, but I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to. Maybe that’s a controversial opinion! Maybe it’s not. I don’t care either way.
This isn’t going to and shouldn’t change until the Sox show signs of life on the field. Calling up top prospect Eloy Jimenez would be akin to putting a band-aid on a disembowelment wound, but at least it would be a little less blood spilled. I think keeping him in the minors when he has yet to meet a level of professional baseball at which he’s been legitimately challenged just to potentially save some money in the future goes against the spirit of the game, and it’s not like there’s a major league baseball team out there who doesn’t have the bankroll anyway. 29 out of 30 teams are worth $1 billion or more, with the $900-million Tampa Bay Rays owned by a guy worth $800 million. The White Sox are, like their offense, about in the middle of the pack. There’s no team in baseball that should be using financial concerns as a reason to keep a young potential superstar down in the minors.
So, call up Eloy. Give people a reason to tune into the fantastic Jason Benetti/Steve Stone broadcast team. Make it a little less painful to haul your weary and broken body down to The Rate (lol! kill me). Motivate me to open the MLB app every once in a while.
Eloy Jimenez, 21 years old until late November, is hitting .336/.379/.623 in 36 games so far with AA Birmingham, accompanied by nine home runs, 13 doubles, and a second-in-the-league 36 RBI (remember, he missed the first few weeks of the season). Of his five professional seasons, he hit under .300 in his very first (rookie league, age 17, .227), his second (age 18, low-A ball, .284), and the 2016 Arizona Fall League (age 19, 15 games, .255). Other than those teenage years, his lowest full-season batting average is .312, a number accompanied by 19 home runs and 22 doubles over 89 games and three different teams (last season). He’s not going to be a walk machine – although I expect that to pick up through experience and fear – but he’s also not going to be a strikeout machine. He’s going to provide average and power.
Jimenez will probably not continue hitting .336 when he reaches the majors, but there’s a possibility, so here’s some arbitrary comparisons to stars with similar stat lines (if vastly different scouting reports). 21-year-old Yankee Gleyber Torres, also a former Cub and a potential All-Star, is hitting .321/.380/.596 with nine home runs and three doubles over 32 games. Houston Astro Jose Altuve, 28, is hitting .332/.379/.467 with four dongs and 15 doubles. 25-year-old Manny Machado of the Orioles – someone whose season White Sox fans might be following with some interest – is hitting .326/.394/.614, 16 homers, and 14 doubles.
Each of those players is basically a reason to pay attention to their respective teams. They help make their team relevant. Yolmer Sanchez, as much as I love him, is not that guy. Yoan Moncada, who will eventually be that guy, is not that guy. Eloy Jimenez, who’s hitting .336/.379/.623, is that guy. Give him a challenge. Let him join the class of young uber-prospects currently breaking into the big leagues. It’s absurd to keep him where he is. White Sox fans know to be patient with this whole arduously slow rebuild process, but he’s one piece that doesn’t need to be moving glacially. Baseball deserves a player like Eloy.
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