The next big thing? Jimenez ready whenever White Sox call

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Eloy Jimenez says he doesn’t feel the pressure of expectations. Not even when fellow Chicago White Sox prospect Michael Kopech said he thinks Jimenez is “the Babe Ruth of our generation.”

“Yeah, he told me that in Triple-A,” Jimenez said Saturday. “I feel proud and blessed and I think he is the (next) Nolan Ryan.”

Kopech’s time will have to wait a year, when the right-hander expects to return from Tommy John surgery. But Jimenez is coming soon to the South Side.

Acquired from the Cubs two years ago in a deal for pitcher Jose Quintana, Jimenez has spent his time getting ready, working on his defense and tearing up Double-A and Triple-A pitching. Last year, splitting time between the two levels, the 22-year-old outfielder hit .337 with 22 homers and is ranked by MLB.com as the third-best prospect in baseball.

Jimenez said he was “a little bit disappointed” when he was not called up at the end of last season. And he may not start this season with the big league club, as waiting a few weeks will allow the White Sox to add a year of control before he can become a free agent.

Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said, “We’re just going to see how he looks and line it up over the course of the next couple weeks.”

“He is going to be, in our opinion, a tremendous player for the Chicago White Sox for a long time. We all think he’s going to make a significant impact on the field on this team this year and spent the bulk if not all the season in Chicago. When exactly that time starts remains to be seen,” he said.

Jimenez, for his part, is putting that talk out of his thought process. “I’m going to step in and keep doing all I can do,” he said.

It isn’t just his teammates, bosses and talent evaluators who see him as a future star. Jimenez expects a lot of himself and is aiming to win the AL Rookie of the Year award, which could be a battle between Jimenez and fellow Dominican Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays — who MLB.com ranks No. 1 on its prospect list.

“It’s not pressure for me because I don’t really think about it,” he said. “I just try to work hard and be ready for the moment. Assuming I get there, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing all my career.”

Manager Rick Renteria likes what he sees from Jimenez, who will see time in left and right field when Cactus League play begins next week.

“I think he will continue to develop as a defender. I believe he can be better than an average defender,” he said.

“In terms of his offense I think he’s a very polished hitter already. I’m hard pressed to tell you what I think will challenge him the most because he is so gifted,” he said. “It would be foolish for me think he won’t hit a lull or a wall. But I hope it doesn’t happen. He’s a confident, very bright young man.”

Kopech saw Jimenez up close as a minor league teammate last season.

“Very smart hitter, very well rounded when gets to the plate,” the pitcher said. “He’s very calm, doesn’t seem like he’s out of place at any point, no matter who’s on the mound. Very impressive to watch.”

Renteria was also impressed when informed of Kopech’s assessment.

“Wow! I’m glad Kopech knows who Babe Ruth is,” the manager said to laughter at Saturday’s media briefing. But Renteria added, “That’s awesome. I hope he is.”