Jiménez has big goals at plate in 2024

March 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- wants to hit 40-plus home runs during the 2024 season for the White Sox.

Some doubts might exist as to whether Jiménez can reach that lofty total. But those doubts don’t exist in the upbeat nature of the gifted 27-year-old designated hitter.

“You know, that’s my key. 40-plus,” Jiménez said. “I know I can do it because [in] my first year, without knowing the league and without having some confidence in me, I hit 31. Now that I have more time in the big leagues and I think for this year right now, I feel really good. Why not?”

Jiménez has been crushing the baseball during the first two weeks of Spring Training, going 13-for-25 with one home run and nine RBIs. That home run was a mammoth blast off Ryan Brasier during a 12-9 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday.

It traveled to the back of Camelback Ranch’s left field berm, and despite hitting 89 home runs over five big league seasons, Jiménez seemed to have a little extra enjoyment in this particular long ball.

“A little bit, a little bit,” said Jiménez with a smile. “Last year, I didn’t hit any homers here so to have one here is good. I enjoyed it.”

“Timing is everything for him. When he’s early, when he gets that leg up early, he’s good,” White Sox hitting coach Marcus Thames said. “When he’s late, he’s going to rush, he’s going to put the ball on the ground, and the big emphasis for him is to get the ball off the ground.”

So, what’s different for Jiménez, as he enters the final guaranteed season of a six-year, $43 million deal with a $16.5 million club option for 2025, an $18.5 million club option for ’26 and a $3 million buyout for each season? He didn’t hit a home run last Spring Training, but he did finish 13-for-30 at the plate.

There’s now an adjustment in Jiménez’s swing with his hands held higher, a suggestion made to him during the offseason by Amaury Nina, his godfather who also happens to be his hitting coach. It’s a way for Jiménez to combat a career 50.4 percent ground ball rate, according to Statcast, which has never been below 47.6 percent in a single season.

“I feel more comfortable. I feel better,” Jiménez said. “At the beginning, I felt weird. I used to hit like that in the Minor Leagues, so [it’s] something I’ve done before. Why not bring it back?”

“He’s just trying to make sure his hands are staying up,” Thames said. “Once he starts burying his hands down here, it’s all timing. Now he’s got to come back up, so why not keep them close to where he’s firing from? He does that, and good things are going to happen.”

If Jiménez’s changes carry over into the regular season, he could be a forceful presence in the heart of the order and top his career highs of 31 homers and 79 RBIs from 2019. If he can stay healthy -- and that’s an understandable “if” for someone who topped 100 games for just the second time in a season in ’23 -- then he has the ability and personality to be a star.

Not being able to stay healthy has been disappointing for Jiménez.

“It is, because in the end, I just want to play,” Jiménez said. “Three years, having surgeries, it’s nothing fun. It was disappointing but this is another year. I’m ready and I feel good.

“Just keep working. I can’t control if I get hurt on the field. I just can control working out and get myself as strong as I can.”

Maybe Jiménez can hit above .300 in 2024. He’s done it before (in the Minors), as Jiménez explained.

A big season such as that could lead to an in-season trade from the rebuilding White Sox. Jiménez understands the game is a business, but he is focused on helping the White Sox win. Because again, why not?

“I just want to thank [general manager] Chris [Getz] and [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] [for keeping] me here,” Jiménez said. “I expect to be here and I’m here, so we are good.

“When you work on something, you want to see the results. And to see the results is good.”