9) Luis Jimenez, 3b
Bats - Right Born - 01/88 Height - 6’1” Weight - 170 lbs
Advanced Rookie League, 284 AB’s .331/.361/.630 (.339/.375/.706 vs right, .317/.336/.500 vs left)
Luis “Lucho” Jimenez came stateside with a bang, lashing 49 extra base hits across only 284 at bats for the advanced rookie ball Orem Owls. His 15 home runs over 66 games paced the Pioneer League, and his slash stats were impressive enough for Baseball America to anoint him the fifth best prospect in that league. Last season, he was the Dominican Summer League’s player of the year.
I was initially going to rank Luis Jiminez much lower on this list due to his utter lack of patience at the plate - he’s walked just 21 times in 550+ plate appearances over the past two years - but the harder I look at him, the more his power potential stands out. Since 2000, only two other Halos prospects have slugged higher than .630 at advanced rookie ball in a hundred or more at bats - Roberto Lopez and Sam Swenson - and they were both 23 when they did it. Lucho did it at age 20, and his isolated power was higher than either of those guys. Despite being a touch older than most other Pioneer League elite prospects, his raw power is impressive enough to put him on the map in a big way.
Lucho shares many of the characteristics of fellow Halo corner prospects Mark Trumbo, Matt Sweeney, and Gabriel Jacobo: he hits the ball a mile, doesn’t strikes out excessively, and therefore should maintain a decent batting average despite the mediocre OBP. What sets Lucho apart from that group is his ability to play a respectable third base, though a shoulder injury kept him from flashing any leather in the second half of ’08. If Lucho successfully handles the hot corner in the coming season at Cedar Rapids and/or Rancho Cucamonga (I think he’ll spend a half season at each), he could leap ahead of the other three prospects on the Halos depth chart by the end of the year.
Stephen Smith at futureangels.com did a good analysis of Lucho’s primary weakness - what he calls “knowing his strike zone.” Basically, Lucho emphasized contact at the expense of waiting for a pitch that he could drive, especially in RBI situations. Not only did this result in an excessive number of outs, but it cleaved his batting average with runners on base in high leverage situations. Lucho is young, but not that young, so he’ll have to iron out these issues in the next season or two.
PROJECTION: Barring a dramatic upswing in plate discipline, Lucho’s best case, win-the-lottery ceiling in the bigs looks a lot like Ryan Braun’s 2008: .285/.335/.555, minus a smattering of homeruns and strikeouts. Again, this is a best case scenario because most power/contact/no patience guys go the way of Jeff Francoeur (usually long before they reach the bigs). Lucho’s path to the Angels’ hot corner is dubious and steep - he’ll have to duck the odds of attrition to get there - but the ceiling is high enough to make him an exciting guy to watch in ‘09.