Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Leo Jimenez

Feb 1, 2023 - 6:30 PM
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Leo Jimenez is a 21-year-old (turns 22 in May) middle infielder. He was added to the 40-man roster in November 2021 (protecting him from a Rule 5 draft that didn’t happen). I didn’t understand why he was put on the 40-man, no team would have taken him in the draft since he hadn’t played above Rookie League to that point. But the front office knows more than I do.

Last year he played for Vancouver. He hit .230/.340/.385 with 6 home runs, 7 steals, 27 walks and 58 strikeouts. It is a disappointing batting line for a guy who hit .316/.517/.381 for Dunedin, with more walks (51) than strikeouts (35), the year before.

In 2021 he had a 21.1% walk rate, last year it was 8.2%. The strikeout rate was 14.5% in 2021, and 19.7% in 2022.

To be fair he did hit better as the season went on. In July he hit .286/.380/.587 with 4 home runs in 63 at-bats. But he wasn’t terrific in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .237/.412/.342 in 51 PA.

The Jays signed him as an international free agent out of Panama, in 2017, getting $825,000. Until last year, he had always hit well in each of his seasons in the Jays’ system. He didn’t show much for power, but he had batting averages around .300 and took more than his share of walks.

Last year he was number 4 on our Top Prospect list. Tom_M said:

There’s a ceiling on how good a prospect can be without any game power to speak of, and Jimenez is bumping up against it. He’s as sure a bet to hit and get on base as a player at his level can be, and he’s also expected to add significant value with the glove as well. Even in today’s power oriented game, guys like David Fletcher and Nicky Lopez show that enough contact and defense can make a player an average regular. It’s very difficult to be more than that, though, without at least a few home runs, which is what keeps Jimenez a tier below the true gems of the system. As he is, the odds are high that he’ll have a productive career as at least a high quality utility infielder and possibly an everyday guy. If he’s able to unlock just a little of his raw power without sacrificing too much contact, which pure hitters as talented as he is are sometimes able to do, he has the potential to be a first division starter.

But then that was before the .230 batting average this past season. I’d expect he’ll drop a few spots on this year’s list. Last year he was being compared to Nicky Lopez and David Fletcher. I doubt we’ll see that comparison this year.

His defense, by all accounts, is good enough to keep him playing short, should he make it to the majors. But the team has had him play some second base as well, as his most likely path to the majors is as a utility infielder.

But he’s going to have to start hitting again. I don’t think it is unfair to suggest that if he hits in the lower .200s again this season, he won’t keep his 40-man roster spot.

Steamer thinks he’ll get 1 PA in the majors this year. It isn’t out of the question, as he is on the 40-man, and his glove is good enough now to be a utility player in the majors. But, the Jays DFAed Matt Gage with the signing of Chad Green. I’d think they, at least, considered dropping Jimenez instead. Is he the next most likely to be dropped?

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