Sunday, April 21, 2024

Eloy Jimenez In Right Field? Grifol Says It’s A Possibility


Most White Sox fans assumed Oscar Colas would take over duties in right field once the season rolled around. The White Sox second-ranked prospect hit a combined .314 with 23 home runs across the minor leagues last season. That was until new manager Pedro Grifol dropped a bombshell on everyone by floating out the idea of Eloy Jimenez playing right field.

During Andrew Benintendi’s introductory press conference, Grifol was asked if Jimenez would be the team’s full-time designated hitter now that a Gold Glove left fielder was just added to the roster. The White Sox manager proceeded to set White Sox Twitter ablaze with his response.

“Benny comes here to play left field. He’s done it his whole career, and he’s obviously very good at it,” Grifol said. “I’ve spoken to Eloy. I’ve told him to continue to work in the outfield, to work some in right field, as well. So that conversation has already been had with him. And in true professional manner, Eloy wants to do whatever is best for this ballclub, and whatever helps us win baseball games.”

While his statement may come as a shock, it should not concern White Sox fans. The key phrase in that statement is “whatever helps us win baseball games.”

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The White Sox corner outfielders were terrible last season. Their right fielders combined for the third worse defensive runs saved in the MLB with a whooping -13. Left field was not much better as the team combined for a -6 mark. It is one of the reasons the White Sox let Jose Abreu walk in free agency.

Eloy Jimenez is not an outfielder. He has a career Outs Above Average of -12 and a sprint speed that ranked in the 16th percentile in 2022. Andrew Vaughn compounded the issue. Defensively he was the worst outfielder in the MLB last season. His Outs Above Average and his average Outfield Jump ranked in the bottom one percentile.

The White Sox wanted to move Jimenez to a full-time designated hitter, which meant former first-round pick, Vaughn would have to spend another season in the outfield if Abreu was brought back.

The addition of Andrew Benintendi adds an immediate defensive upgrade in left field, meaning the only position that Jimenez could play besides designated hitter is right field.

Despite playing nearly 60 games in the minor leagues in right field, Jimenez does not possess the skill set to do it at the major league level. The right fielder generally has the strongest arm in the outfield. Jimenez’s arm strength ranked in the 13th percentile, according to Baseball Savant. Left field is typically the easiest outfield position to play, and the 26-year-old struggled to stay healthy while roaming left field. Given his injury-prone nature, keeping him out of the outfield altogether seems like a wise decision.

Grifol likely wanted Jimenez to stay engaged during the offseason and sharpen his defensive skills. There may come a time on a getaway day that he is forced to play a few games in right field. But White Sox fans do not have anything to worry about.

Despite the front office’s constant bumbling, they have eyes. They know as well as we do that Jimenez and defense do not mix. They will try to keep him out of harm’s way as much as they can.

Grifol even addressed this during an interview with CHGO sports after the press conference.

“I talked to Eloy. He’s all-in, he’s a professional, he knows what we’re trying to do. And I told him, ‘Obviously, Benny’s coming here to play left field. I need you to continue to practice in left, play some right field, in case there’s a need out there in right field.’ And he said, ‘Whatever it takes to win baseball games. I’m in this thing to play October baseball, and that’s what this is about.’ And I said, ‘That’s all we need to hear.’

“Our job is to keep Eloy in the lineup throughout the whole year. And if we can do that, if he can stay healthy, I know he’ll have a big year for us.”

Is it possible we will see Eloy in right field at some point? Yes. But don’t expect him to be a regular out there.


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Jan 13, 2023 7:38 pm

Eloy moved a lot better in the outfield when he was 40 lbs lighter (@ South Bend). His frame does not support the added weight. Would love to meet the genius who thought the added weight was a good idea.

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