Is Eloy Jimenez 'right' guy for Chicago White Sox?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Eloy Jimenez, an outfielder with the Birmingham Barons, a Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, talks with reporters before a baseball game between the White Sox and the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Chicago.

    Eloy Jimenez, an outfielder with the Birmingham Barons, a Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, talks with reporters before a baseball game between the White Sox and the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Chicago.

  • SCOT GREGOR/sgregor@dailyherald.comChicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia was on hand for the team's first full squad workout Monday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

    SCOT GREGOR/sgregor@dailyherald.comChicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia was on hand for the team's first full squad workout Monday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

 
 

As expected, the Chicago White Sox optioned star outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez to Class AA Birmingham on Wednesday.

If he can stay healthy -- and he continues destroying minor-league pitching -- Jimenez is going to be back with the Sox this season, most likely after the all-star break.

On the health front, Jimenez missed 15 straight Cactus League games with tendinitis in his left knee.

He returned Saturday as a pinch hitter and delivered a 2-run homer against his old team, the Cubs. Jimenez was back in the White Sox's starting lineup against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday and went 2-for-2 with a solo home run and a triple.

Only 21, Jimenez is going back to Birmingham for more seasoning.

Acquired by the Sox in last July's blockbuster trade that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder played 29 games at high Class A Winston-Salem and finished the year with 18 games at Birmingham.

Jimenez played the first 42 games of the season with high A Myrtle Beach in the Cubs' season. He hit a combined .312/.379/.568 with 19 home runs and 65 RBI.

Those are some serious numbers, and they show why Jimenez ranks No. 4 on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list.

When he does join the White Sox, Jimenez is likely to play right field, his position at Winston-Salem and Birmingham.

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But Jimenez also can play left, his position for 17 games at Myrtle Beach and 14 games in the Dominican Winter Leagues.

Earlier in training camp, Jimenez was asked about his preference in the outfield.

"I don't know," he said. "What is important now is just to get to the majors, and when the manager (Rick Renteria) decides where I'm going to play, I'll play."

Jimenez is making a fast push to the majors, but the Sox have a few months to sort out his defensive position.

In the meantime, they have an all-star in right field.

After three straight disappointing seasons with the White Sox, Avisail Garcia put it all together last year and finished second in the American League with a .330 batting average.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Garcia also ranked sixth in the AL with a .380 on-base percentage and led the major leagues with a .424 average against left-handed pitching.

"I believe in myself," said Garcia, the only Sox player in last year's All-Star Game. "I believe in what I put in during the off-season, a lot of sacrifice. That's why I'm here. I want to keep working hard and try to do my best and improve."

Only 26 and under club control through the 2019 season, Garcia could be a part of the White Sox's future.

If he has another big year, the Sox might decide Garcia is valuable enough for a contract extension and a permanent spot in right field.

The White Sox might also decide to trade a productive Garcia for premium prospects.

"Avi is still very young in this game at age 26 and has had his breakout season," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "You would have reason to believe that kind of performance is going to become the norm for him going forward. Those are considerations as we make that assessment.

"Are we better served trying to control these players through the bulk of what we project to be our window, or are we better served as an organization doing what we had to do with Chris (Sale), Adam (Eaton), Jose (Quintana) and others?"

Stay tuned.

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