If there is one thing the Detroit Tigers have had inconsistencies with over the past decade, it is their bullpen.
That’s where Joe Jimenez steps in.
Jimenez has been as consistent as they come on his rise from unknown to one of the top relief prospects in baseball. Despite having just 17.2 innings of Triple-A experience, the Tigers called their closer-in-waiting to The Show.
The right-hander stands at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. The Tigers signed Jimenez out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. He was regarded the best high school pitcher in Puerto Rico, but rumors that he expected a huge pay day saw the potential early round pick slip off the draft board.
The Tigers swooped in and found themselves a gem.
Jimenez’s numbers speak for themselves. He has a career 13.02 strikeout-per-nine rate backed by a respectable 2.64 walks-per-nine. While some have questioned his command, he has yet to show little reason as why it should be worrisome.
The 22-year old is destined for the bullpen, primarily because he is a two-pitch guy. Those two pitches, however, are tough to hit. He has a fastball that sits regularly in the 95 to 98 range. That's roughly five miles faster than he topped out at when he signed as a teenager. Jimenez also has one of the better sliders in the minor leagues. It is a swing-and-miss pitch, and judging by his career strikeout numbers, there is certainly a lot of miss.
I think the slider is getting better. What you think? pic.twitter.com/TyJ9hBMLms— Joe Jiménez (@JAJimenez27) March 15, 2017
He does utilize a change-up, but it is hardly a weapon and at this juncture, and doesn’t seem like it would be effective in the bigs. Still, if he can develop a third offering he could put himself in the hunt for full-time closer by next season.
Jimenez’s resume speaks volumes. He was MiLB.com’s best mid-season reliever last year, as well as a Baseball America Minor League All Star. He has appeared on the big stage twice, pitching in consecutive Futures Games.
Last season, Jimenez made his High-A debut at Lakeland. He then made his Double-A and Triple-A debut, skyrocketing to the top of the Tigers prospect lists. Across the three levels, he posted 1.51 ERA, recording a 1.23, 1.23 and 2.72 FIP at each respective level upward. He struck out 78 and walked 17 in 53.2 innings, limiting opponents to a 0.80 WHIP behind a .144 batting average against. He was successful in 30 of his 31 save opportunities as well.
(video courtesy of J. Chipman/ YouTube)
Jimenez isn't in Detroit to supplant Francisco Rodriguez, but K-Rod isn't getting any younger. It is surprising that they called Jimenez up and have yet to pitch him, especially on the heels of three straight 1-run victories. Jimenez could use game action to improve his command and secondary stuff, so it's curious that they chose to call him up to sit in the bullpen.
Either way, Jimenez seems ready to make an impact, whether it is in a set-up role or specialist for now. He is the future closer for Detroit and hopefully in the coming days we will see what he has to offer.