In the coming weeks, NESN.com will profile some of the more noteworthy prospects in the Red Sox system, utilizing insight and analysis from industry experts who know the players best. Next up: Gilberto Jimenez.
Right now, the only Boston Red Sox prospects you’ll find on MLB top 100 lists are Triston Casas, Jeter Downs and Jarren Duran.
Don’t be surprised if they’re joined by outfielder Gilberto Jimenez when midseason rankings arrive.
In fact, you probably should expect it.
“If you had to ask me who the most likely person is to jump on those midseason lists that isn’t currently on any of them, it would be him,” SoxProspects.com director of scouting Ian Cundall recently told NESN.com.
Jimenez, a 20-year-old freakish athlete, is generating considerable buzz among baseball media and evaluators due to his impressive skill set. He just might have the highest ceiling of any player in Boston’s farm system.
So why, then, are so many Red Sox fans unfamiliar with him? Why is a player who never has played higher than short-season A-ball ranked so highly on organizational prospect rankings?
Let’s get into it. Here’s everything you need to know about Jimenez, perhaps the most exciting of all Red Sox prospects.
Jimenez signed for just $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic at 17 years old. It wasn’t until he joined the Red Sox that he began switch-hitting.
Thanks to a strong showing in the Dominican Summer League, Jimenez won the Red Sox’s Latin Program Player of the Year Award in 2018.
Despite the obvious learning curve, Jimenez led the New York-Penn League in hitting in 2019 with a .359 batting average to go along with three home runs and 14 stolen bases. He likely would’ve started last year in Single-A Greenville, but what would have been his first full season in the minors was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once a thin, speed-first prospect, Jimenez showed up to Boston’s 2020 Fall Instructional League considerably stronger, and his performance there fueled a surge up many Red Sox prospect rankings.
Jimenez recently joined the Red Sox in Fort Myers and has piqued the interest of Boston manager Alex Cora.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him,” Cora recently said during a video conference with reporters. “Strong kid. Strong. Looking forward for him to go out there and learn from the guys. It should be fun to see him run around the bases.”
Jimenez has (nearly) everything you could want in a prospect.
“He’s a really good athlete,” Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett told NESN.com last summer. “Great speed, good arm strength. A guy who shows you all the tools.”
Jimenez always has had strong contact skills (from both sides of the plate since becoming a switch-hitter), a cannon for an arm and a reputation for being a strong defender. He also is the fastest player in the Red Sox ranks not named Jarren Duran.
But it’s his increase in power that has everyone talking.
“The strength gains … the biggest impact is at the plate,” Cundall said. “He’s someone who really uses his speed to great effect. He led the (New York-Penn League) in hitting in 2019. But if you watched it, he wasn’t really impacting the baseball. The number of times I saw him pull the ball with authority, I could count on one hand. … He could just put the ball in play and he would just keep running because they couldn’t throw him out.
” … This year, with his added strength, in (fall instructs) he showed up and he could really impact the baseball from both sides of the plate.”
Added Cundall: “He’s transformed his body. When he signed, he was a twitchy, 160-pound athletic guy. And now he’s 218 pounds at 5-foot-11, and he’s literally built like a running back. He looks like an NFL player. He’s jacked, it’s just solid muscle. It’s cost him a little speed. He’s not (a grade-80) runner anymore, more like a 70-75 runner. But no one’s going to complain about that.”
“He’s literally built like a running back. He looks like an NFL player.”Ian Cundall, SoxProspects.com
The main thing Jimenez lacks? Experience. It’s one thing to lead the Penn league in hitting and show power at fall instructs. It’s another thing entirely to continue displaying those skills as you progress through the minors.
Additionally, Jimenez, a better hitter from the right side than the left, will have to prove he can punish advanced pitching from the left side if he wants to continue switch-hitting. Scouts also want to see a more mature approach at the plate.
“Does he have a better idea of what he’s doing at the plate and is he being more selective?” Cundall said of what he’s looking for from Jimenez in 2021. “Not getting himself out and forcing the issue at the plate.”
Most-likely outcome: Good outfielder, potential for All-Star appearance.
Ultimately, you don’t want to put unfair expectations on any player, let alone a 20-year-old. Still, Jimenez’s skill set makes it easy to envision the youngster being at least a useful major leaguer.
In his latest Red Sox prospects rankings, The Athletic’s Keith Law wrote: “He’ll need to learn to work the count more, as right now he can put so many pitches in play and let his speed take over that he might be losing out on some power. He’s a plus defender in center as well.”
Best-case scenario: All-Star outfielder, top-of-the-order hitter.
We’re talking about a potential five-tool player.
If Jimenez hits his ceiling, particularly as a hitter, he could be a big league star in a matter of years. Still, we need to see far more of him before we can confidently use terms like “All-Star.”
SoxProspects ranking: No. 5
Here’s their summation:
“High ceiling, low floor. Wide range of outcomes due to how raw he is and how much development he has left. Can dream on him becoming an everyday center fielder who adds value at the plate and in the field. One of the highest-ceiling players in the system and could establish himself nationally with a strong full-season debut. Will flash four average-to-better tools at least, but is raw at present. One of, if not the most athletic player in the system. Improved physicality and changes at the plate give him a much better chance to hit and to hit for some power as well. Needs work to refine his defensive game, but has the athletic ability and arm strength you look for in a centerfielder. Possesses great work ethic.”
Don’t bet on seeing Jimenez at Fenway Park this season. The 2022 campaign is more realistic, but even that feels like a reach. He only is 20 years old and still is very raw.
From Cundall: “He’s years away, and we need to see the performance against full-season (competition). And if he comes out of the gates strong in (low-Single-A Salem), then he’s someone who I think is going to shoot up the list. He checks a lot of the boxes that teams look for. He’s an above-average-plus defender in center field. He’s got a really good arm. So, he’s got the defensive skill set.
“It’s just, will the offense get there to the point you can project him being a major league-quality hitter? And the scouts I talked to were a lot more confident in that after instructs than they were when they first saw him in Lowell.”