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MWL notes: Cubs' Jimenez maturing quickly

Chicago's No. 2 prospect reaching different levels since Futures Game
August 18, 2016

USA Today called it "jaw-dropping." called it "eye-popping." Bleacher Nation referred to it as "ridiculous."

South Bend's Eloy Jimenez opened eyes and set off an avalanche of superlatives at the the Futures Game on July 10 when he sprinted from right-center field and nearly hurdled the wall at San Diego's Petco Park to grab a fly ball in foul territory. 

In addition to the dazzling catch, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-fielder went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer that smacked off the third deck of the Western Metal Supply Company Building.

The Futures Game experience made just as significant of an impact on Jimenez, who is showing what he can do beyond the catch. South Bend manager Jimmy Gonzalez has noticed a progression of maturity since the showcase event.

"Eloy is going up there with an idea now," Gonzalez said. "It's not just 'I'm a baseball player. I'm playing baseball.' He's up there thinking, knowing how he's going to be pitched, knowing how he's going to be approached and sticking to the approach he has. Those things will also make him a better player. Those things are evident in his numbers."

Jimenez's numbers are at or near the top of the Midwest League rankings. He's first in the league in RBIs (77), doubles (37) and slugging percentage (.531), second in hitting (.336) and tied for eighth in homers (12) through Wednesday.

The 19-year-old from Santo Domingo Centro, Dominican Republic, signed with the Cubs three years ago for a $2.8 million bonus. He is ranked by as the No. 2 prospect in the organization.

"I came back from the Futures Game with a better understanding of the mental part of the game," Jimenez said. "I was around players from Double-A and Triple-A. They changed me a lot. They showed me how I can get a better idea when I go to home plate.

"When I found out about the Futures Game, I was like, 'This is just one game. I'm just going to go and play one game.' When I got there I was like, 'Oh, my God. This is going to be an amazing experience.' I realized it was a chance to learn a lot by watching the players I was around and talking to them. I tried to take advantage of that."

Gonzalez said the Cubs organization is working on fostering maturity in Jimenez.

"Maturity comes with time and conversation," Gonzalez said. "That's part of development. We're trying to teach our players every aspect of baseball. It's not just, 'Here, let's hit, let's throw.' It's also the mental part. That's a big part when you have a 19-year-old who isn't used to certain things, and they're going through tough times. You have to battle with them, by their side, and help them through those moments."

Gonzalez knows the efforts of the Cubs staff are paying off by comments he gets from opposing managers in the Midwest League, who notice that in the second half of the season, Jimenez now has a two-strike approach, and he's able to hit the ball the other way.

"I'm trying to focus more on my game and be better in the field," Jimenez said. "I'm better at being focused on my game and my plan. I feel like I'm learning something every day. I'm asking questions. I understand how things fit in with my plan. I grind in all of my areas, the outfield, hitting, but mostly in the mental part."

A big part of the mental approach for Jimenez is having fun.

"It's really big for me to keep things loose," Jimenez said. "I just try to enjoy the game. If you don't enjoy the game, and you put pressure on yourself, you're not going to do well. That's the key, enjoy the game and you'll be happy. I was really nervous before the Futures Game, and then I told myself that it's the same game I played when I was a kid and to just have fun, and that's what I did."

Gonzalez said the Futures Game experience could be a turning point for Jimenez.

"When I told Eloy about the Futures Game, he was excited, but he had no idea about the game," Gonzalez said. "When he came back, he was talking about the stadium and the people and the game. I'm not sure if he understood it at first, but when you're there and you experience that … it was a moment for him. I think it probably makes him realize, 'This is where I want to be, quicker.' He played in a Major League park, saw the fans there and saw the treatment that the players got there. I think that is one of the things that will inspire him."

In brief

Close to perfection: Lake County pitcher Trevor Foss, a 26-year-old right-hander who joined the Captains on Aug. 2 out of the independent Frontier League, retired the first 18 batters he faced Monday, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning against West Michigan. He mowed down the first 18 West Michigan batters on 49 pitches -- 43 of them strikes. Foss lost the perfect game in the seventh on Jose Zambrano's leadoff triple. Lake County won the game, 2-1. West Michigan starter Spenser Watkins retired the first 10 batters he faced in the game.

ShutoutKings: Pitchers on the Clinton LumberKings' staff have handcuffed the opposition. The LumberKings used four pitchers to record a three-hit shutout of Burlington on Friday, giving Clinton a league-high 18 shutouts this season. The 4-0 victory also extended Clinton's winning streak to eight games, which was snapped in a 1-0 loss the following day.

Record for Allen: Fort Wayne TinCaps catcher Austin Allen extended his hitting streak to 24 games on Friday night in a 13-5 win against Bowling Green, giving him the franchise record. Allen's hitting streak topped the previous Fort Wayne record of 23 games set by Sean Burroughs in 1999. Allen's streak ended Saturday night when he went 0-for-3 against the Hot Rods.

Curt Rallo is a contributor to