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ADP Champ or Chump Spotlight: Eloy Jimenez

Considering that the Coronavirus has delayed the season indefinitely, it's a great opportunity to try changing up the formatting of this column. We're going to take a deep look into one player, spending time on his MiLB numbers in addition to MLB peripheral stats in order to paint a truly complete picture of his prospects in 2020.

The first player to receive this spotlight will be Eloy Jimenez, outfielder for the Chicago White Sox. MLB Pipeline rated Jimenez as the number-three prospect in all of baseball behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. before last season, and the consensus seems to be that the combination of his pedigree and a strong rookie performance will lead to further growth in the upcoming 2020 campaign.

While that outcome is certainly plausible, this author feels that 2020 may not be the big breakout some owners are expecting. Here's why.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Eloy Jimenez (OF, CWS)

ADP: 60.2

Jimenez slugged an impressive 31 HR over 504 PAs in his debut season, producing a solid line of .267/.315/.513 in the process. His supporters believe that this was only the beginning, as he tore up the High Minors with batting average skills that could lead to great things in the future.

Jimenez first reached the High Minors by slashing .353/.397/.559 with three homers in 73 PAs for Double-A Birmingham in 2017. Considering the small sample and accompanying .429 BABIP, we probably shouldn't draw too many conclusions from this. Jimenez returned to Birmingham for the 2018 season, where he slashed an impressive .317/.368/.556 with 10 HR in 228 PAs. The performance earned him a midseason callup to Triple-A Charlotte, where he hit an even better .355/.399/.597 with 12 HR over 228 PAs to close out the season.

Those MiLB lines appear to offer substantial batting average upside. However, those lines may not be as good as they initially appear. Birmingham finished in the 70th percentile for BABIP among all MiLB stadiums last year, suggesting a hitter-friendly environment that may have contributed to Jimenez's .344 BABIP there.

Triple-A Charlotte grades out as the Coors Field of the International League, finishing in the 99th percentile for HR and 96th for BABIP. Jimenez's production spiked there, but you have to wonder if his .375 BABIP was more the park than him. Guaranteed Rate Field ranked as a slight negative for right-handed BABIP last season, so Jimenez won't receive the same support in the Show.

Jimenez's .308 BABIP last season is probably repeatable, but it is worth noting that he pulled 64.6% of his ground balls last season. That number isn't quite high enough to worry about the shift (he hit .313 in 150 PAs against it), but could become problematic if it gets any higher. His 18.2 LD% is also a potential red flag moving forward, but one season is far too small a sample to draw definitive conclusions about his line drive potential.

Likewise, Jimenez's peripherals suggest that his MiLB K% marks may have been a mirage. He struck out 17.1% of the time at Double-A in 2018, but his 12.4 SwStr% really wasn't that special. He looked even better with a 13.2% strikeout rate at Triple-A that season, but his 12.7 SwStr% didn't improve at all. Somebody with Jimenez's power and pedigree would also be expected to walk more often than he did (7.9% at Double-A, 6.1% at Triple-A), suggesting that he may have been chasing pitches he shouldn't have.

His MLB plate discipline metrics last season were ugly, striking out at a 26.6% clip against a 6 BB%. Worse, his eye was below-average (36.7% chase rate) while there was a ton of swing-and-miss in his game (15.3 SwStr%). His MiLB history suggests that both of these problems aren't new, meaning that Jimenez has some work to do to raise his average to his own standard on the farm.

Fantasy owners might not care about Jimenez's average if he provides elite power, but his batted ball distribution isn't well-suited to it. His 33.9 FB% a season ago is not where a slugger wants to live. Similarly, he never seemed to master the art of loft on the farm either. Here is Jimenez's MiLB batted ball distribution at every stop:

For reference, sluggers generally want at least 40% fly balls. Jimenez got there exactly once, in a 122 PA sample at High-A (he was close at Double-A last year). You may also notice that Jimenez "wastes" a lot of his flies on infield pop-ups. You have to halve MiLB IFFB% rates to get MLB equivalents, but that 31.7% mark at Triple-A last season is still alarming.

To be clear, Jimenez may be able to join the fly ball revolution. His Statcast power indicators were fantastic (96.6 mph average airborne exit velocity, 12.8% rate of Barrels per Batted Ball Event), so the tone of this analysis would change completely if he did. Unfortunately, any 2020 season will be complicated by coronavirus concerns that may make it difficult for Jimenez (or anyone else) to get the one-on-one coaching many players need to alter their approach.

Jimenez still hit 31 long balls last season on the strength of a 27.2% HR/FB, but a rate above 25% is sustainable only for the game's best sluggers. His 16.7% pull rate on fly balls is also shy of what you'd like to see, forcing Jimenez to work harder for his homers. The best avenue for a breakout here is to fit more fly balls to take advantage of his raw power, not an increased HR/FB.

Many may also be projecting a counting stat increase considering the improvements the White Sox made to their lineup, but RosterResource has moved Jimenez down to sixth in the order. While he could earn his way to a better spot, one has to think that the club signed veterans such as Edwin Encarnacion to take some of the pressure off young guys like Jimenez. Jimenez is likely to see fewer counting stat opportunities even if the White Sox improve as a whole as a result. The latter point is not a given either, as players like Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada may have enjoyed career years they can't repeat.

Jimenez is projected for a .281/.329/.526 line with a 35 HR pace per FanGraphs Depth Charts, but that doesn't mean that he will hit exactly that. It means that it's the median of all the outcomes projection systems see, many of which are significantly better or worse. Baseball Savant's xStats suggest that Jimenez deserved his production last season with a .268 xBA and .521 xSLG, meaning that you're betting on growth if you're projecting anything more.

Jimenez is taken in the same price range as frontline starters such as Yu Darvish (60.6 ADP) and Tyler Glasnow (65), reliable first-sackers such as Paul Goldschmidt (60.6) and Matt Olson (62.4), and the under-the-radar Max Muncy (68.6). With question marks on his power, plate discipline, and maybe even BABIP, why hope that Jimenez can reach his full potential this year when so many safer options with comparable numbers are still available?

Verdict: Chump (based on the growth required to build on his 2019 and current price tag)

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