- TEAM: Detroit Tigers
- AGE: 22
- POSITION: Pitcher
- BATS: Right
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 6-foot-3
- WEIGHT: 220 lbs.
- ACQUIRED: The Detroit Tigers signed Jimenez as an undrafted free agent from the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy in June 2013.
Jimenez has been developed as a power reliever with a blazing fastball and a very solid, well- above-average slider combination. Like most relievers, he throws his fastball to set up his other pitches. But he doesn’t have to do that. His arsenal is good enough to use any pitch at any point in any given sequence.
The four-seam fastball generally sits between 94-97 miles per hour. His slider is a very good pitch that greets the hitter in the range of 83-85 miles per hour. It really is a power-pitch combination that could do some real damage to hitters’ batting averages in late innings.
A third pitch in his repertoire is a changeup that is gaining a bit more use by Jimenez. He can change the balance of the hitter with the changeup and deceive a batter who is hunting his fastball with that effective third pitch.
The key to Jimenez’s success is his ability to change speeds on his fastball and slider. He adds and subtracts on both those pitches, adding a wrinkle to his offerings.
Major-league hitters and those that have more experience hitting high-velocity pitchers may not strike out against Jimenez as often as less experienced hitters because they may just “sit” on his fastball and pass on every other pitch until they reach two strikes in the count. He can deceive and fool the batter with his aggressive delivery and lots of different speeds on his pitches.
Jimenez is tough to “square up”. Hitters don’t generally make very solid contact against him. They may put the ball in play, but it really is softer contact than the hitter may desire.
It is quite possible that Jimenez could be considered for the closer role on the revamped Tigers major-league club. He has saved 56 games in his minor-league career that spans parts of five seasons. Last season he saved 30 games between Class-A Advanced Lakeland (10) Double-A Erie (12) and Triple A-Toledo (8). In his 53.2 innings pitched, he threw to an outstanding 1.51 ERA with a WHIP of 0.80.
Jimenez is a very aggressive, maximum effort worker on the mound. He may very well wear himself out if he pitches more than two innings in any outing. His stuff and his delivery are a match for a one-inning reliever.
I first saw Jimenez pitch in the 2015 MLB Futures Game. He threw only two-thirds of an inning in the game. It was obvious from that short outing that he emerged as a legitimate pitching prospect for the Tigers. He appeared again the 2016 Futures Game, working one-third of an inning. He ended a rally in the second inning. I’ve since seen lots of his outings, and he’s a legitimate prospect with rookie status intact.
Throwing across his body at times costs him command on his fastball/slider combination.
Earlier in his career, the Tigers were concerned that his secondary pitches were not advanced enough to handle major-league hitters. He is making improvement in that regard, and he really isn’t shy about moving off the fastball.
Every major-league team passed on Jimenez in the 2013 draft. The Tigers then signed him as an undrafted free agent.
He is proving to be quite a bargain.
Some teams may have felt he would end up pitching for Florida International University, his original plan, instead of signing a professional baseball contract if he was drafted.
Jimenez got the Tigers’ attention at the beginning of his career when he threw 18 superb innings as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast Rookie League. He pitched to a 0.50 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. Opponents hit only .155 off him.
His velocity has lost a tick in the past few years. At one point he was throwing 98 to 99 miles per hour with relative ease. That isn’t quite the case now.
Jimenez was named Tigers Minor-League Pitcher of the Year for 2015 when he went 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA and 0.79 WHIP and 17 saves in 40 appearances for West Michigan. He won the award again in 2016 for his work across three Tigers minor-league levels.
At the beginning of this season, the Tigers promoted Jimenez to the major-league club. He made his debut on April 13 against the Minnesota Twins. He worked a clean ninth inning of the game, yielding no hits and no runs while striking out one. He was optioned back to the minor leagues, returning to the Tigers and appearing in a major-league game again on August 5. He is with the parent club now.
THE FUTURE FOR JIMENEZ
It is clear that Jimenez has to have the two-pitch mix of his fastball/slider duo to work the ninth inning if he wishes to ultimately close for the Tigers. If he can maintain his mid-to-higher 90s velocity, and control his secondary pitches, he can be very credible at the back of the game.
It isn’t necessary for him to mix in a third pitch as he continues to pitch out of the bullpen. He can survive very well with two very good, above-average pitches in his fastball and slider, provided he throws them for strikes and doesn’t get too much of the plate in the process.
A high-energy, aggressive pitcher, Jimenez may be spent physically before he gets beyond one inning on the mound. That’s why he is a very good late-game option for Detroit.
The Tigers are in a very deep transition and rebuilding phase. Jimenez’s role will depend upon how much pressure they feel to get back on track quickly. They may enter 2018 with a new closer from another team. They may choose to use Shane Green, Alex Wilson or Drew VerHagen in that role.
Or, they may want to test Jimenez as the closer in spring training. In short, his role for 2018 and beyond is yet to be determined. He is, however, very likely in the team’s pitching plans.
Right-hander Joe Jimenez is a quality, hard-throwing pitcher destined to work out of the bullpen.
Unselected by a major-league club in the draft, the Tigers signed him out of Puerto Rico as a free agent. He may end up paying terrific dividends for a team now in transition.
Aggressive, with high energy on the mound, Jimenez may have to be monitored for multiple-inning fatigue. Using a fastball/slider combination as his basic two pitches, Jimenez can hit the higher 90s. I have observed a tick less velocity of late, but he still can bring his fastball.
Given the fact that his fastball and slider are both well above-average pitches, his command and control of those pitches will be key to his success. I think he can cover the ninth inning and mount some saves in his future. With the new Tigers, however, the saves may not come as often as in the past.
SCOUTING PHRASE FOR JIMENEZ: Promising, hard-throwing reliever with upside as a closer.
SCOUTING GRADE FOR JIMENEZ: 55 – An above average major-league reliever.
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