Last week, the Chicago White Sox found out they will be without their young slugger, outfielder Eloy Jimenez, for a good chunk of the 2021 season.
Initial reports stated that Jimenez felt left shoulder discomfort after making an attempt to rob a home run during a Spring Training game on March 24.
On March 25, the Chicago White Sox announced via Twitter that Jimenez had suffered a ruptured left pectoral tendon, and the injury will require surgery with an expected recovery period of 5-6 months.
MLB Insider Jon Heyman tweeted on Monday that Jimenez would only miss four to five months, however, a shorter time frame than was initially believed.
The loss of Jimenez will be felt early on in the season for the White Sox. In the shortened 2020 season, Jimenez hit 14 home runs and drove in 41 runs while producing a slash line of .296/.332/.559.
The injury is devastating for both the organization and the fanbase. After the White Sox got their first taste of the playoffs last season, the team has a World Series or bust mentality heading into 2021.
Jimenez won the Silver Slugger award last season and was an important bat in the middle of the White Sox lineup, but what will be missed most is his presence in the clubhouse. Jimenez always brought energy and a smile to those around him.
Although the injury is a significant blow for the White Sox to take, the team acknowledges that if there is one area they can take a hit on right now, it is on the offensive side of the ball.
Jimenez has had many instances where his defensive play in the outfield has resulted in injury and the White Sox are now provided the opportunity to look for possible long-term solutions in the outfield. Whether these are players brought up from within the organization or outside options, this opens the door for the team to potentially get even better.
The priority is to get Jimenez healthy and on the field in time for a playoff push, but the injury also opens the door for the conversation of Jimenez switching positions. He has remained adamant that he is an outfielder, but the organization is going to need to have discussions with him about the changes he needs to make if he wants to continue playing in the outfield every day.
The injury puts even more pressure on a young team with very high aspirations, but it allows the White Sox other young stars an opportunity to showcase their skills.
Since the injury occurred, White Sox manager Tony LaRussa has allowed White Sox top prospect Andrew Vaughn to take reps over in left field and he has played solid in his limited time. He also continues to handle the bat well, which the White Sox are going to need if they are looking to fill the void created by Jimenez’s absence.
The injury also allows some players to move into new roles in the offense. Since Jiminez’s injury, third baseman Yoan Moncada has been slotted in the cleanup spot for the White Sox. Before contracting COVID-19 last season, Moncada put up a stellar 2019 campaign batting .315 with 25 home runs and 79 runs batted in. With the way he has looked in Spring Training, he looks to be the cleanup hitter for the foreseeable future.
Catcher Zack Collins has also made some noise during this year’s Spring Training. In the small sample of 44 at-bats, the prospect seems to have finally found his stride. He ended Spring Training with a .295 batting average, hitting three home runs and driving in six runs. It looks like he will be one of the players platooning in the DH spot for the White Sox during Jimenez’s absence.
Dealing with an injury this serious to one of the organization’s best players is going to be difficult to navigate for an extended period of time, but the White Sox have one of the most talented lineups in all of baseball, even without Jimenez.
The Sox have the perfect mix of knowledgeable veterans and young stars to carry this team for the time without Jimenez. This team is poised to make a run this season with or without Jimenez, and with one of the best rotations, bullpens and offenses in baseball, they have all the talent they need to still make a push for the AL Central crown without their slugger.