Eloy Jiménez returns to White Sox from WBC in full working order

White Sox outfield Eloy Jimenez in the World Baseball Classic
(Photo by Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports)

Pool play in the World Baseball Classic has concluded, and only Eloy Jiménez will be the only participant returning to the White Sox.

Tim Anderson, Lance Lynn and Kendall Graveman are advancing with Team USA, which will face José Ruiz’s undefeated Venezuela. The winner of that game will then take on Team Cuba with Luis Robert Jr. and Yoán Moncada, and Miami could render the idea of home-field advantage moot.

Some solace for Jiménez? After watching Freddie Freeman depart the tournament with a strained hamstring and Edwin Diaz suffering a season-ending knee injury in a celebration, there are far worse ways to head back to a team.

Jiménez only has to deal with the disappointment of a surprisingly early exit sealed by the Dominican Republic’s 5-2 loss to Puerto Rico, although neither team left the field happy thanks to the Diaz development.

But Jiménez doesn’t have anything to hang his head about. Like Anderson, Jiménez played his way into a lineup that could have shut him out, what with Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez and Teoscar Hernández covering the outfield, and Rafael Devers potentially DHing.

PERTINENT: In WBC, Tim Anderson gets first experience at second base for best reasons

Jiménez started the DR’s final three games, going 5-for-11 with a double and a pair of strikeouts. If you’re looking for updates into the right field experiment, he couldn’t come up a catch in the right-center gap that he made worse with a weird, unhelpful slide …

… but if I had to choose between Jiménez sliding like that and Jiménez laying out for the ball, I’d take him opting for the kind of action he’s thrown himself into time and time again. Besides, he didn’t even commit the worst gaffe by a DR outfielder on Wednesday, as Rodríguez instead claimed the honor.

Now that Eloy Jiménez is back…

With Jiménez flying back to Arizona today to restart the right field conversation at the local level, there are two questions to keep in mind:

  1. How often will Oscar Colás be starting out there?
  2. Will Jiménez’s bat make the defensive hit worthwhile?

As for the first question, Colás is hitting .364/.382/.576 with just one strikeout over 34 plate appearances, so while he has his own defensive wrinkles to iron out, he’s putting himself in position to share the burden.

Regarding the second, because Jiménez played his recent games in an MLB stadium, we have the Statcast data on his hits. I’m pleased to report that none of them were cheap.

  1. 105.4 mph line-drive single
  2. 94.4 mph single through the middle
  3. 109.8 mph line-drive single
  4. 104.6 mph single through the left side
  5. 107.2 mph double off the wall in left center.

Jiménez was 8-for-16 with the White Sox before he departed for the WBC, and he looked just as good — if not better — against real competition, including get-him-out sequencing, an environment conducive to good breaking balls and all shifts allowed. Everything remains in place for the breakout season Jiménez’s potential has always promised.

The question, as always, is whether his body will hold up. He did what he could to convey seriousness about defense with his offseason training, and the White Sox didn’t do enough over the winter to box him out of the outfield, so he’s still put himself in position to be assigned a position.

As I’ve said before, the best way to deal with the idea of Jiménez playing either corner is to not really think about it. For one, our vigilance will accomplish nothing. But even if we could somehow cordon him off to DH ourselves, he’s still hurt himself running the bases. He’s also hurt himself sliding. He’s also hurt himself celebrating. He doesn’t need to be holding a glove to pose a hazard to himself. Obviously, less time exerting himself suggests a lower risk in getting hurt, but I got out of the “Guess How Eloy Jiménez’s Body is Going to Respond to These Circumstances” business a long time ago.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Augusto Barojas

I know some people have downplayed how bad Eloy’s defense is. He has made decent plays a time or two. But I’ve never seen a more awkward looking outfielder who is more of a danger to himself and others. Never.

Even if his defense isn’t quite as bad as he sometimes looks, it certainly isn’t good. And we’ve seen the fruits of his playing the outfield, to the tune of him never having played 125 games entering into his 4th full season. He’s like a blind person out there. He needs to DH and be mature and realistic enough to get used to that. Him playing the outfield is utterly pointless, and stupid. All risk, and zero upside. Can you imagine him running into Robert? They could lose both guys on one play! Not likely, but with God, and Eloy in the outfield, nothing is impossible.

I saw two right fielders worse than him play for the Sox last year.

Augusto Barojas

True, and yet neither Sheets nor Vaughn mimic the coordination and awareness of someone in a Snuffleupagus costume, a danger of running into the center fielder, a wall, infielders, umpires, or base coaches of the other team.

I’m sure Eloy will see a few games in the OF. More than a few is just asking for trouble. I think all the times he has hurt himself have been in the outfield except for one. And he’s come close other times. I recall him getting tangled in a net turning a double into an inside the park homer, which was hilarious on some level since he was OK. But geez is he just in his own world out there, there’s never been anybody quite like him, ever!

Qubort

As Jim pointed out, he’s gotten injured everywhere. Should he walk the base paths too to protect from injuries? I’d prefer to not see him in the outfield, but I’d rather see him over Vaughn or Sheets out there.

Bonus Baby

I’d rather see Sheets, with the full knowledge that Sheets should be worse defensively.

As to protecting him from injury — I 100% believe he should not be busting it down to 1st base on infield grounders. Running is fine, but just tell him to run at like 90% speed and don’t try to make any weird lunges or anything like that at first. Players do that all the time anyway when they should probably hustle more — but he should not be one of the hustlers.

I don’t know how to save him from sliding injuries. I wish they could teach him a safe, simple feet-first slide, but I’m not convinced that he’s realistically likely to learn one.

a-t

I like it when my outfielders dismember opposing pitching instead of themselves. That double left a dent in the LF wall in Miami.

Greg Nix

I know it’s a dead horse, but one extra point about Eloy: he could also injure SOMEONE ELSE in the outfield. He’s huge and uncoordinated and aggressive. He’s very nearly taken out Robert before.

Patrick Nolan

Just remember to not call him injury prone or you’re being unfair

StockroomSnail

Injury adjacent?

HallofFrank

I’m all for Eloy being DH-only—for now.

Something that seems to go ignored in this conversation is Eloy’s value, this year and over the next few years as he gets more expensive. If he’s truly DH-only, he better really hit. His career wRC+ is 124. Over the same time, that’s a little worse than Michael Brantley (who also plays OF) and a little better than Luke Voit (who also plays 1B).

A DH-only player making ~$10m (Eloy this year) to $15m (Eloy in the near future) with a 124 wRC+ is not an especially valuable player. I think you could argue that $15m could be better spent elsewhere—especially if that player is, erm, prone to injuries. So, here’s to hoping he can be that offensive force we all think he can be, like he showed at the end of last year. But if he’s not that, there’s a point at which playing him in OF is worth the risk.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

If you count the 5 position players who missed almost 1/2 a season last year and the 3 starting pitchers who threw less than 125 innings, the Sox are counting on 8 guys to be healthy that were not last year, several of whom were not the year prior either. Given that they are likely to be sunk by not having enough healthy players (w/ backups that are turd level), which is surely a big part of why win projections are not optimistic for them, I think Eloy belongs safely off the field without compromise. His value is zero if he can’t play.

Last edited 1 year ago by LamarHoyt_oncrack
HallofFrank

I’m not sure why you’re bringing up other guys or what they have to do with it. The question I’m raising is only about Eloy’s value (in 2023 and beyond) as DH-only. If he mashes, great. He should stay at DH. But at some point the injury risk is worth it. A 125 wRC+ for a DH-only isn’t very valuable and probably not worth the $15m option. A 125 wRC+ for even a below-average RF is valuable.

ChiTownMax25

Yes, DH-only players take a huge hit in defensive value. Outfielders who are terrible in the outfield also take a huge hit in defensive value. He has to really hit regardless of where he’s playing. His surplus value isn’t going to be that high regardless of where he’s playing. A nice contributor, sure, but not really a star by any measure.

HallofFrank

Yes, agreed, if he’s a terrible RF, that’s a factor, too. You’re right that he has to hit. But if he can even be a below-average RF (a notch or two above “terrible”), that has value. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’ll hit. The question I’m raising: will he hit well enough to warrant being DH-only?

A 140 wRC+ with slightly below-average defense is a star. With his contract, that’s a lot of surplus value. Obviously, some “ifs” there. But it’s possible.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Eloy has been on the DL 3 times in 4 seasons due to running into something, or some one. The wall in spring training 2 years ago, and a wall plus an outfielder (Tilson) in 2019. He has missed like 130 games or so due to playing the outfield. “At some point the injury risk is worth it” doesn’t make any sense. He’s never posted a WAR over 2 or come close to playing a full season because he’s always hurt. He has more value as DH only than he does if he spends significant time on the DL again.

They have enough possibilities for injuries that they don’t need to add to it by being dumb asses about Eloy, and ignoring the potential for another disaster with him in the OF.

Augusto Barojas

Eloy is a train wreck in the outfield, irrespective of fielding ability. I mean how many times does he have to get hurt, or come close, to simply say “ok, maybe OF isn’t a good fit for him”.

It’s not like he’s a slick fielder who gives them high quality defense. There is no sensible reason for him to play the OF, other than to patronize him. Which they need to stop doing.

Bonus Baby

I remain convinced — until proven otherwise at this point — that a full season of healthy Eloy would turn in offensive numbers closer to his second half last year — 167 OPS+. I’m not saying he’d necessarily reach that, but I’d put the over/under at around 150 OPS+.

I could be wrong, of course, but that’s the overriding reason I think Eloy would probably be best served by being a permanent DH at this point. When he gets injured, and/or misses time, his hitting suffers, and it’s just not worth it to have him in the outfield even if he plays average defense out there.

Nellie Fox

Chicago #Whitesox outfielder Yoan Moncada was diagnosed with a concussion, and perhaps bruised ribs, but Cuba baseball officials say he should be fine.
9:58 PM · Mar 19, 2023

are we going for another reason for a bad season?