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Eloy Jimenez discusses playing right field in 2023, losing Abreu

by Jordan Lazowski

“…I’m going to get better, and I want to play in the outfield.”

This afternoon, while talking to the media, Eloy Jimenez made his intentions clear: despite the signing of Andrew Benintendi, he wants to be part of the outfield discussion in 2023 for the White Sox.

In his career, Jimenez has been a subpar outfielder. His first season by far was his worst one, posting -12 Outs Above Average (OAA) in left field in 228 chances. In the three seasons since, Jimenez’s health and the COVID-shortened season have limited his outfield time, but over 218 combined chances, Jimenez has since posted -6 OAA; so, at the very least, some progress has been made. However, the White Sox are balancing a combination of keeping Jimenez healthy and keeping Jimenez happy – a difficult conversation to have for any manager.

None of this should imply that Eloy Jimenez is expected to see a significant amount of time in right field next season. This week, Pedro Grifol appeared in an interview with 670TheScore, where he explained his thoughts on the right field situation:

“I’m talking about maybe seeing him there a day or two a week if possible and keeping him athletic and keeping him working on the defensive side, because I know that helps on the offensive side as well.”

Grifol also included that he expects Gavin Sheets, Leury García, Jake Marisnick, and Oscar Colás to compete for time in right field and ultimately the right field job, along with Jimenez.

To his credit, Jimenez has made it clear that he has put in a lot of work defensively and strength-wise this offseason in order to improve his standing in the outfield picture moving forward – though he wasn’t yet ready to divulge all of the details.

However, as a player with 40+ home run potential, the White Sox are going to move forward with plenty of precaution with such a talented player.

Jimenez on Abreu’s Departure

Jimenez was also asked about the loss of Jose Abreu – a leader on the South Side, especially in the clubhouse. Jimenez’s answer was both rather cryptic but also expressed a lingering air of disappointment in Abreu’s departure.

In a previous conversation with Shane Riordan of 670TheScore, Pedro Grifol expressed optimism in the team’s ability to not only find a new leader following Abreu’s absence but his ability as a manager to lead this group and help develop and empower some new leaders.

“Leadership is 90% taking and 10% giving. We have leaders in that clubhouse; they just haven’t had to lead yet. Those conversations are going to be a part of Spring Training and our culture… we will have a leader. I am certain that someone – or more than one – are going to step up and lead.”

Players like Lance Lynn, Tim Anderson, and Yasmani Grandal are natural candidates to step up and become leaders in their own way in the dugout; however, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Yoan Moncada would also make great candidates to help lead a diverse group of players into the next era post-Jose Abreu on the South Side.

Everything Grifol has said on these sorts of questions should make White Sox fans feel pretty good about his ability to lead the clubhouse, however, as of now, it’s clear he still has his work cut out for him.

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Featured Image: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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