GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Eloy Jimenez was 15 years old when he made up his mind.It was 2013, months before he would officially sign his $2.8 million deal, and not long after the top international prospect in the class had endured 13 tryouts with 13 different teams in one week.Chicago would
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Eloy Jimenez was 15 years old when he made up his mind.
It was 2013, months before he would officially sign his $2.8 million deal, and not long after the top international prospect in the class had endured 13 tryouts with 13 different teams in one week.
Chicago would be the city where he would play in the big leagues, the young Jimenez told himself after the 14th tryout. The teen would go on to turn down larger offers from the Rangers and the Astros to sign with the Cubs that August in part because he liked the Cubs' colors.
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"My favorite player was Sammy Sosa, and I liked home runs and all of that," Jimenez, 21, said in Spanish. "I was young, just a kid, but I knew I wanted to play in Chicago. As a player, you sign, and you think you will grow up with that team and make it to the big leagues with them, but God had a different plan for me. I'm still going to play in the big leagues in Chicago, so that part hasn't changed."
The triumphs and struggles the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Jimenez has experienced during his pro career have helped him mature. The club's top prospect is still growing physically, and like most players his age, is still honing his skills on offense and defense.
"These colors are good, too," Jimenez said as he tugged on a black and white White Sox T-shirt. "I really like what we are doing here. The White Sox are building something special, and they want me to be part of it, and that's a good thing."
This week, Jimenez joins a group of 30 players that includes Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Zack Collins, Jake Burger, Micker Adolfo, Matt Davidson and Nicky Delmonico at the club's fifth annual hitting camp at Camelback Ranch, the team's Spring Training facility. In addition to hitting on the field and in the cages, the players also meet with coaches and staff several times a day.
Jimenez was acquired as part of a five-player deal that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs.
"This is an important camp for us simply from the standpoint of getting everyone in one place and getting everyone acclimated to our way of doing things," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "A lot of what goes on here happens in the classroom in more of a chalk-talk environment. For some of these players, it's their first time at Camelback Ranch, and it gives them the opportunity to get comfortable with the surroundings and staff before Spring Training starts."
Jimenez is in Arizona to work on his swing. He hits towering home runs and puts on a show during batting practice, but there is still room for improvement.
Last season, he combined to hit .312 with 19 homers and 65 RBIs at Class A Advanced with the Cubs and White Sox and later at Double-A with the White Sox. He's also played in the last two MLB All-Star Futures Games. Jimenez was in Rookie ball in 2014 at age 17.
"Everything we heard about him was true," said Class A Advanced Winston-Salem hitting coach Charlie Poe, who worked with Jimenez last season. "The ceiling is high and the aptitude for the game is outstanding. He does not get beat on fastballs and stays on the breaking balls. He doesn't chase balls in the dirt. He has a good approach."
It's been a busy 12 months for Jimenez. He capped off 2017 with a successful stint with the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League late last year. Spring Training starts next month.
"To be honest, I think last season was my best because I faced good competition and I was able to stay calm and adjust, and that's what's going to help me get to the big leagues," Jimenez said. "I remember being in Rookie League and just getting so frustrated when I made outs. I was 17. That feels like a long time ago."
There's no doubting Jimenez's confidence, and he feels like he can play in the big leagues in 2018. The White Sox do not want to rush him. That said, his play will dictate where he starts and ends the season.
"I want them all to feel like they are all ready. We are going to have 60 guys in big league camp, and I want them all thinking they can force their way on the 25-man roster," Hahn said. "It's our job in the front office along with the coaches to try to take a little longer-term view in what we are trying to accomplish over an extended period of time and not try to rush anything to get short-term satisfaction."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.