Luis "Lucho" Jimenez, Third Baseman
In your best fake Hispanic Jack Black voice, chant out, "Luchooooooooooo." Okay, silly "Nacho Libre" joke, but in all seriousness, Luis Jimenez has made his mark on Angels fans, and with his Angels teammates. "Lucho" has an ability to hit the ball hard and to the gaps that not many young players have. Jimenez spent some of last season with the big club, but fine tuned his bat, glove, and overall game in the minors over the past seven seasons, starting when he was 18-years-old. He's 25 now, and has developed in to a Major Leaguer of the immediate future. His stock has dropped since the recent pickup of David Freese, but it is almost certain that Jimenez will be a strong asset to the 2014 Angels season.
As we said, Lucho spent time with the Angels last season, with a pair of callups. In a late 2013 season interview with InsideTheHalos Publisher, Taylor Ward, Angels Manager, Mike Scioscia expressed what was expected from Lucho following his second callup:
"Lucho is a player the second time around that we would hope would be more comfortable and productive. I think any player that comes up to the big leagues and experiences and then goes back down, when they come back for a second time they're always further along and more comfortable and i think Lucho is there... He's always been a clutch hitter through his whole minor league career, and he's got some big hits for us."
Jimenez has an ability to hit the ball to the gaps unlike most young players. He put on some muscle weight over the past few off-seasons, and that has helped him with his power, that goes well with his free swinging bat. A scout told us that Jimenez has what they like to call a "hand-eye coordination type of bat" which is something not all players have. You will never see Jimenez swinging at pitches guessing where the location is, but instead, seeing where every pitch is.
The same scout went on to tell us, "Jimenez takes aggressive swings off his front foot which helps him pull the ball, causing a lot of fly balls, and causing a lot to fall in the gaps." Jimenez has the ability and power now, to possibly hit 25 or more doubles per season, given the opportunity.
"The way he can play defense has been terrific. He's been playing at an extraordinary level on the defensive side," said Scioscia in the same interview.
What stands out most when it comes to Jimenez's defensive game is his arm. He has all the makings of a sound defensive third baseman with a quick release, accurate throw, and plus arm strength behind his throw to make up for any slight mistakes, which he rarely does make.
A big question to Jimenez's game is plate discipline. He may not strike out much, but he also rarely ever walks. He is an aggressive plate presence, which he makes up for with good contact, but once he reaches the Major Leagues, he may have trouble staying ahead in counts, and may find pitches he would not tend to want to swing at early in at bats. More from Scioscia:
"That's going to be experience and I think players can reach the major leagues and that's hard to do but the toughest thing is making a foot print. There's no doubt that if you start off hot, pitchers are going to make adjustments and they did against Lucho. Hopefully second time around he's going to understand what they're doing and have a little better approach at the plate."
Jimenez also has plus speed. Not necessarily the fastest guy on the track, but he is capable of taking an extra base with hits to the corners, and could steal a base if given the green light.
Jimenez started his minor league career in the Dominican League, where he became a strong presence in his late teens. In two seasons combined with the DSL Angels, Jimenez put up a .306/.346/.518 slash, with 28 doubles and 12 home runs, including a strikeout ratio of just barely over 10% of his plate appearances.
Jimenez made the jump to America, and never cooled off. In his first season in Rookie Ball, Jimenez batted .331/.361/.630, including a bonus to his power numbers with 15 bombs, and 65 RBI.
Jimenez started climbing the ladder quickly from there, spending 2010 between Low-A and High-A. Once again this was no problem for Lucho. His numbers dropped off ever so slightly, but a full season did Jimenez well. At the end, combining both levels played, he hit .288/.326/.506, with 46 doubles and 9 triples to his credit.
Double-A in 2011, nearly identical numbers to the season prior. 2012, even stronger numbers in Triple-A. Jimenez was becoming such a strong bat in the Angels farm system, people finally started taking notice.
In two full seasons in Triple-A, Jimenez put up his final minor league numbers. A combined .302/.332/.471 slash almost matched his career minor league numbers. This included 20 home runs and 127 RBI. Jimenez also had 71 extra-base hits over his two seasons in Triple-A, as well at a a 13% strikeout ratio.
Jimenez earned himself an early season callup in 2013 to the big club, where he excelled early. In his first two weeks with the Angels, Jimenez put up strong numbers at the plate. Even with it being small sample size, Jimenez finished with a .304 batting average (14-for-46) in his first two weeks, with it peaking to a .474 average (9-for-19) after just one week. By the end of the 2013 season, Jimenez had a successful rookie season, putting up a .260/.291/.317 slash, good for any young player in the Majors.
EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE:
Jimenez can earn himself a spot on the Angels 25-man roster with a good Spring Training, but it is likely he may start the 2014 season back in Triple-A with the Salt Lake Bees. If it wasn't for the trade that brought David Freese over from the St. Louis Cardinals, it would have been an almost obvious decision for Jimenez to be the starting third baseman for the 2014 season, but now with the spot filled, and other needs to meet, there isn't much room for Jimenez to begin the season. If he can prove himself early, a callup would be expected, and could be permanent.
Regardless of where Jimenez starts in 2014, he has proven himself as a potential starting third baseman in the Major Leagues in the near to immediate future.
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