After showing out at fall instructs in 2020 and receiving his first invite to big-league camp the following spring, it really seemed like Red Sox outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez was primed for a breakout year in 2021.
Jimenez came into the year regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect and top athlete in Boston’s farm system. Upon completion of minor-league spring training, Jimenez opened and ultimately spent the entirety of the 2021 season with Low-A Salem.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor-league season in 2020, the highest level Jimenez had reached was short-season Lowell. As a member of the Salem Red Sox, the switch-hitting outfielder batted .306/.346/.405 with 16 doubles, six triples, three home runs, 56 RBIs, 64 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 19 walks, and 86 strikeouts over 94 games and 408 plate appearances.
On the surface, a 21-year-old hitting .306 in his first full season of pro ball hardly seems like anything worth complaining about. In Jimenez’s case, however, 89 of his 114 hits (78%) went for singles and he only put up a slightly-above-average 105 wRC+. His 4.7% walk rate also ranked among the lowest in the Low-A East last year.
Defensively, Jimenez saw time at all three outfield positions for Salem. He logged 375 2/3 innings in center field, 247 1/3 innings in right field, and 126 1/3 innings in left field while committing a total of four errors.
Because of how he performed on both sides of the ball, scouts were relatively low on Jimenez as of last fall, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.
“Scouts are down on him based on how he performed this year because he didn’t show the ability to impact the baseball,” Cundall wrote in November. “He made little progress with his approach and was inconsistent on defense.”
Baseball America’s prospect rankings reflect this as well considering the fact that Jimenez has fallen out of the Red Sox’ 2022 top 10 list, which was compiled by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.
When asked by a reader back if his confidence in Jimenez took a hit in 2021, Speier responded by saying: “The fact that he’s not a top-10 guy suggests as much. He hasn’t made many strides in terms of plate discipline or driving the ball in the air, and the longer he goes without doing so, the harder it is to imagine him getting anywhere near the ceiling suggested by his exceptional athleticism and speed.”
Jimenez, who originally signed with the Red Sox for just $10,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, is one of several minor-leaguers eligible for the Rule 5 Draft (if there is a Rule 5 Draft, that is) since he was not added to Boston’s 40-man roster last fall.
As many others (including The Athletic’s Keith Law) have already suggested, it would be surprising to see another team take Jimenez in the Rule 5 since he has only played as high as the Low-A level. Opposing clubs could attempt to stash the speedster on their bench for the entirety of the 2022 major-league season, but they would be risking his development by doing so.
Before the deadline to add Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster came and went in November, there was some speculation that Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. would entertain the idea of trading a minor-leaguer like Jimenez if they were not going to include him.
That ultimately did not happen, but the possibility remains that Boston could move Jimenez as part of a bigger deal once the MLB lockout eventually comes to a close.
It does feel worth mentioning that Jimenez, who turns 22 in July, was one of three outfielders who participated in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in Fort Myers last month alongside Nick Decker and Tyler Dearden.
Under the assumption that Jimenez remains with the Red Sox organization through the start of the 2022 minor-league season, the 5-foot-11, 212 pounder is projected by SoxProspects.com to start out the year with High-A Greenville.
(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)