GLENDALE, Ariz. — The race is officially on.
Top outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are both in the starting blocks with the Chicago White Sox for the first time this spring, and the clock is ticking on their major-league arrival times.
Look for Jimenez to easily cross the tape in front of Robert, but not because he has more talent.
Jimenez, ranked No. 4 overall on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list, has played 300 minor-league games since signing with the Chicago Cubs in 2013.
Robert, ranked No. 58 by Baseball America, played just 28 games in the Dominican Summer League last season after getting a $26 million signing bonus from the White Sox in May.
The 21-year-old Jimenez finished up last season with Class AA Birmingham, where he batted .353/.397/.559 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI in 18 games.
At his accelerated pace, don’t be surprised if Jimenez joins the Sox at some point after the all-star break.
“In my mind, I don’t try to set a date for when I’m going to be in the majors,” Jimenez said Tuesday through White Sox translator Billy Russo at Camelback Ranch. “I’m just trying to do my best every day, and when God thinks the right time is coming, that’s good for me.”
The 20-year-old Robert slashed .310/.491/.536 with 3 home runs and 14 RBI in 28 games with the DSL Sox. Look for the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder to open the year at low Class A Kannapolis or high A Winston-Salem and possibly make it to the Sox late next season.
“I don’t know when I can be in the majors,” Robert said through Russo. “I’m just focusing on doing my work. Try to get better and get ready for the time.”
Jimenez and Robert are in a hitting group with another intriguing outfield prospect — Micker Adolfo. They put on quite a show in batting practice Tuesday, impressing White Sox minor-league hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger.
“He’s got a great approach, great mechanics,” Gellinger said of Jimenez. “It’s getting the timing down, and once he starts seeing more live pitching and things like that, everything falls into place for him.
“(Robert) just needs to see pitching,” Gellinger added. “He needs to get at-bats and go through the whole process of a season. Right now, he looks good. He’s probably one of the more natural swings I’ve seen, meaning that I don’t know if there’s much you can really say to him about his swing other than his approach, like, ‘Hey, try to hit the ball here. Stay in this area. Hit the ball in the middle. Not too quick.’ Things like that.”
While Jimenez, Robert and even Adolfo are at different stages in their development, the trio is dreaming of the day when they are standing side by side in the White Sox’s outfield.
“We were talking about it in batting practice,” Jimenez said. “Micker and Luis said, ‘Can you imagine if we had the opportunity one day to play together in the majors, right, left and center field? The three of us together and having the opportunity to bring a championship to this team?’ I think that’s a dream for us and we’re trying to work hard for that.”
Said Robert: “We were talking about just to have the first stage of the three of us together in the minor leagues first and then go to the majors, all three of us together. To have the opportunity to play there should be pretty special for us. We were dreaming about that.”
Should Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo be good enough to realize their dreams, the White Sox are going to be a tough team to deal with not too far down the road.
“I’m very, very excited because I know from the time we have here that when the moment comes, when we can all be in the majors, the ones that can finally reach that level, we’re going to be good,” Jimenez said. “We’re going to be terrific. I know that.”