Chicago White Sox send left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana to Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Eloy Jimenez, pitcher Dylan Cease, first baseman Matt Rose and infielder Bryant Flete.
FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman has reported the Atlanta Braves declined to include prospect outfielder Ronald Acuna in any trade with the White Sox. That speaks volumes.
However, before casting aspersions on the Braves and/or Eloy Jimenez, the focal point player the White Sox acquired, the entire picture should be in the lens.
Teams make trades based upon several factors. Need is at the top or near the top of the list. An itch can be scratched with the right player inserted to the organization at the right time.
My editors have asked me to provide an analysis of both Acuna and Jimenez. They are two totally different but excellent prospects.
The Braves organization is loaded with pitching prospects. Names like Kolby Allard, Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson and Touki Toussaint dot the landscape of their pitching future. They are not as deep with prospect outfielders. Acuna is their best outfield prospect. He is the only outfielder on their top, top prospect depth chart. That helps understand why they didn’t want to part with Acuna in a package for Quintana.
Another critical factor equally as important as the team’s outfield depth is Acuna’s upside. He can become a better-than-average outfielder for years to come in the Braves system. Teams can build around that type of core player.
RONALD ACUNA AT A GLANCE
- AGE: 19
- POSITION: OF
- BATS: Right
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 6-foot
- WEIGHT: 180 pounds
- ACQUIRED: Acuna was signed as an international free agent from Venezuela in 2014
- BRAVES’ 40-MAN ROSTER? No
- TOOLS: Hitting 55, power hitting 55, running 60, arm strength 55, fielding 60
Acuna has a mixture of fine tools, but none are of the superstar quality. He does, however, play outstanding defense. His range, his ability to track down balls off the bat and his plus arm strength add to his ability to play a solid center field.
Offensively, he is a work in progress. He is a projectable hitter with upside in power. I believe he will be more than a 20-home run hitter when he maximizes his power and has reached full maturation.
Not as big and as strong as many in today’s game, Acuna will be using his 60-grade speed to get on base and score runs. He still has to develop his ability to make consistent contact and use his natural speed to steal bases.
Using an aggressive approach, Acuna has hit more home runs this year, 13, than ever before in his three-season career. A torn thumb ligament interrupted his development in 2016. He played in only 42 games last year, making 179 plate appearances and hitting .312.
As of this writing, Acuna is hitting .317 combined at Class-A Advanced Florida (.287) Double-A Mississippi (.326) and Triple-A Gwinnett (.600 in one game).
In addition to his thumb injury, some leg injuries have slowed Acuna in the past as well. Neither of the issues, his thumb or the leg injuries, should keep him from getting playing time in the future.
I wanted to speak with Acuna at the Sirius/XM Futures Game last week, but he speaks no English and there wasn’t an interpreter available at the time. Hitting fifth in the World lineup, Acuna went hitless in four plate appearances, striking out once.
In summary, we have yet to see what Acuna will be able to accomplish on a baseball field. He is young and still adjusting to a new culture. He has raw tools that project to a much better-than-average player.
Acuna is an exciting development player for the Braves with upside in every phase of his game. We can project a better-than-average player with consistently improving execution of currently raw skills. He could be a fixture in center field for years to come. He has zoomed through the Braves organization and is making a tremendous impression so far.
At the rate he is going, I believe we may see Acuna at the major-league level as soon as the end of 2018.
SCOUTING GRADE FOR ACUNA: 60
Readers of my work and those who have listened to me speak about prospects in the past will remember that I liked Eloy Jimenez a great deal the first time I saw him.
At the time I projected that the Cubs would eventually trade Jimenez to satisfy an unmet pitching need.
That has happened and it makes perfect sense.
I truly believe the Cubs were very concerned watching Jon Lester get hit hard in his last outing before the All-Star break. That and the inconsistency of their starting pitching had to lead to a major deal. Enter Jimenez. My shock was that right-handed pitcher Dylan Cease was included in the package to the White Sox. That’s a story for another day.
ELOY JIMENEZ AT A GLANCE
- AGE: 20
- POSITION: OF
- BATS: Right
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 6-foot-4
- WEIGHT: 205 pounds
- ACQUIRED: The Chicago Cubs signed Jimenez as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2013
- WHITE SOX’S 40-MAN ROSTER? No
I can only imagine how difficult it was for the Cubs to trade away a prospect with the physicality and skills upside of Jimenez. One look at him on the field and scouts sit up in their seats.
Jimenez has terrific power from both his huge upper body and his trunk. In fact, as he appears now, his frame is almost ideal and fits the profile of today’s big and strong sluggers. I do, however, have concerns that he will gain too much weight in his lower half.
Jimenez has played parts of four seasons in professional baseball. He carries a combined .293 batting average and has hit 32 home runs. This year, he has eight homers while playing for Myrtle Beach in Class-A Advanced. Unlike Acuna, Jimenez had not reached higher levels in the Cubs’ development program.
Jimenez has played in the Arizona Fall League and in the Futures Game. He has faced quality pitching.
Jimenez played right field in the recently concluded Futures Game and batted sixth, right behind Acuna. He struck out on both trips to the plate.
Strikeouts will be an issue for Jimenez. He won’t become an all-or-nothing home run or strikeout hitter, but he will have to learn to adjust to breaking balls. Sliders, curveballs and cut fastballs have given him trouble. A true fastball hitter now, he projects to improve his approach as a hitter as he continues his development. Like Acuna, Jimenez is a work in progress.
Jimenez has outstanding bat speed at the plate. He recognizes pitches well but he has to learn to lay off pitches he can’t drive. That skill will come. He has solid eye-hand coordination but lacks patience at the plate.
I saw Jimenez play third base in the Arizona Fall League and I felt he could make himself into a solid third baseman with the assistance of coaches. I also believe he would be a capable first baseman if he were ever given the opportunity. I believe he is much more versatile and has greater potential than simply playing right field or any other outfield position. Regardless where he plays, he can be an average defender.
Jimenez is much bigger and much stronger than Acuna. His role will be different. While Acuna will set the table with base hits and run, Jimenez will be called upon to clear the table with gap doubles and home runs. Both are capable of meeting those roles.
Jimenez, only 20, may still gain strength in his frame. However, he will have to monitor weight gain. That could be an issue and it has to be confronted sooner than later.
A quick bat and good baseball instincts will help Jimenez and the White Sox meet their goals. However, I don’t look for Jimenez at the big-league level until 2019 at the earliest.
SCOUTING GRADE FOR JIMENEZ: 60
FINAL THOUGHTS: ACUNA VS. JIMENEZ
Prospects are just that, prospects. What we see now and what we project are not always the same.
Only one in 10 prospects reach major-league status.
Acuna and Jimenez are elite prospects and are much better than average. Either, both or neither can be household names in a couple of years.
It is important to point out that Acuna and Jimenez are two totally different types of players. It is unfair to compare them against each other.
Players are like fingerprints. No two are alike.
I don’t do “comps” because I do not believe one player is like another. Yes, there are similarities between and among players. However, I believe each player to be unique. In the case of Acuna and Jimenez, the trade was made to meet the needs of the teams involved.
Finally, it is very understandable why the Braves do not want to part with Acuna. They will need him.
But watch out for the White Sox. They are loaded with players with huge upside in pitchers Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Cease, Lucas Gioloto, Carson Fulmer, Dane Dunning and closer-in-waiting Zack Burdi. They are piling up position players like Yoan Moncada, Jimenez and catcher Zack Collins. They still have players to deal to add even more depth.
The Cubs are looking to stabilize their pitching with veteran lefty Quintana. The White Sox are looking to get in the Central race for years to come with the fabulous acquisitions of patient and astute general manager Rick Hahn.
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