Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Eloy Jiménez’s Make-or-Break 2024 Season

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The White Sox full squad workouts start today, representing a clean slate from the atrocity that was the 2023 season. This year is crucial for virtually every player on the roster but arguably most important for Eloy Jiménez. Once a top-five prospect in all of MLB and a potential superstar, injury and inconsistency have plagued Jiménez’s career thus far. 2024 could very well be Eloy’s last season in a White Sox uniform, given the structure of his contract.

Injury History

Jiménez’s injury history is well documented. He has gone on the injured list for extended periods for virtually every injury known to man. Pectoral, elbow, groin, appendix, hamstring, ankle, heel, foot, you name it. Jiménez has never played in more than 122 games in any season in his entire five-year MLB career because of injuries, and these durability issues have overshadowed his performance on the field and soured fans’ perception of him as a player. Unfortunately, getting hurt is just a part of who he is. He has not been able to escape the injury bug so far, and it seems unlikely that he will be able to break this trend.

Rough 2023 Season

2023 was arguably the worst season of his career from a performance standpoint, too. Per Baseball Savant, Jiménez had the highest groundball percentage of his entire career (53.2%) while also having the lowest barrel percentage (9.3%), sweet spot percentage (26.0%), and hard hit percentage of his career (37.8%). His numbers trended in the wrong direction virtually across the board in 2023, as he was hitting the ball into the ground at a higher rate than ever before while simultaneously not hitting the ball as hard as he had in previous seasons. 

His OPS was just .758 last season, equivalent to a 104 OPS+. In other words, he was 4% better than the league-average hitter. That level of offensive production will not cut it moving forward for a guy whose value comes exclusively from his bat. He has to hit the ball hard and out of the ballpark consistently, given that he provides no positive value defensively or running the bases.

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Reasons For Optimism

However, there are reasons for optimism as well. 2023 saw Jiménez have the lowest strikeout rate of his career (19%) while playing in the most games since his rookie year in 2019. Despite his down season, he still hit 18 home runs and was a slightly above-league-average hitter by wRC+ and OPS+. His sprint speed also increased from 2022 to 2023, so it is reasonable to assume that his lower half was also healthier. Jiménez has always been able to hit. There is no question about that. Even in down years, he is still better than the league-average hitter. He just has to elevate the ball with authority more and stay on the field consistently. 

Contract Status

Eloy’s contract is pretty straightforward. He will earn $13,833,334 for the 2024 season. He then has a $16,500,000 team option for 2025 and an $18,500,000 team option for 2026, with a $3,000,000 buyout for each season. Should he have another disappointing campaign in 2024, the team can part ways with him after this season and only owe him $6,000,000. The ideal scenario is him playing well in 2024, as that would either increase his value at the upcoming trade deadline or the likelihood that the organization picks up his team option for 2025.

Final Word

At 27 years old, Jiménez is just entering his prime. Despite having an injury-plagued and inconsistent start to his MLB career, he is nowhere near done and can still be the player we all envisioned him to be. Let’s hope he can stay on the field and have a monster 2024 season for his sake and ours.

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