When rosters expanded two weeks ago for September call-ups, many fans were hoping to see top prospect Eloy Jimenez make the jump for the Chicago White Sox.
More than proven his worth in the minors and a blue chipper long before he came over from the Cubs last season for Jose Quintana, Jimenez remained at Triple-A Charlotte because baseball continues to operate with a truly archaic, juvenile player control system.
But we’re not here for that.
The White Sox did call-up a talented outfielder, maybe just not the one you were looking for.
Ryan Cordell doesn’t pack the hype that Jimenez does, but Cordell is one to watch.
An 11th-rounder by the Texas Rangers in 2013 out of Liberty University, Cordell was a prototype middle-round pick. Not begging to be a star but providing multiple tools that could develop into something special.
He caught the eye of Rangers brass when he hit 20 doubles, 13 home runs and stole 21 bases in 2014 for Low-A Hickory and High-A Myrtle Beach.
An athletic, quick and rangy outfielder, the Rangers experimented Cordell in the infield in 2015 for High-A High Desert (the new Rangers affiliate, since changed once more to Down East).
There was a brief time when they were very serious about making him a shortstop, but the majority of his work remained beyond the infield grass.
He raked (as the kids say) in the altitude-friendly High Desert environment and was put to test for Double-A Frisco.
Double-A was an adjustment but he managed and played every defensive position in 2015 except catcher and second base.
He played 124 games in 2015 and just 107 in 2016, injuries bugging him throughout the course of his career to date. (Unfortunately, that problem would persist.)
In the 107 games, he hit .264 with 22 doubles, 19 home runs, 12 stolen bases and 70 RBI.
The right-hander and right-swinger doesn’t have a plus power tool. But he can hit for power.
He doesn’t run like the wind. But he can run.
His glove has golden potential, he just needs to stay on the field.
Out for the season at the time of the trade, the clubhouse favorite watched his teammates swing his own bat during his final game in Frisco, and as part of the Rangers organization.
The Brewers bumped him to Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017, apt for the 25-year old college product.
He hit .284 with an .855 OPS with 10 long balls and nine steals, but was limited to just 68 games and his season ended in June due to a back injury.
A month later, he was traded again to the White Sox for reliever Anthony Swarzak.
Crutches on a plane. Again. Not cool.
The big leagues have been on his doorstep for a while. Unfortunately, injuries plus an extremely busy outfield picture clouded his Brewers future. His centerfield capabilities could have had him up with the Rangers already, had he still been there.
(Obviously a lengthy hypothetical, but like I said, this guy has range.)
With Chicago now, there was still a lot of competition.
The now-26 year old lasted just 10 games in 2018 before suffering a broken clavicle. He missed over three months and had to again work his way back up the organizational ladder.
His spot on the 40-man roster, occupied since 2016 with Texas, was in some jeopardy. He needed to get healthy, and he needed a shot at the big show.
The final two weeks of July were used effectively to build back up to Triple-A, with rehab stops in Rookie ball and Double-A.
On September 3rd, the White Sox called him up.
It’s been just seven games so far in his MLB career, and while he’s still looking for a ball to be thrown back into the dugout for safekeeping, but he has shown off his defensive prowess with multiple appearances in right field and one in center.
The White Sox will continue to rebuild, and even with Jimenez coming soon, there is plenty of room to accommodate Cordell and to see what he can do.
He last played infield in 2017 —12 games at third base for Colorado Springs— and you’d think the Chi Sox are tempted to try him back out as a potential utility player.
Next season will be his age 27 year (March 31), so his clock is certainly ticking.
But his tools are across the board, he just needs to develop the hitting and, most importantly, health tool, to accompany his proficient speed and defense.
By the time the White Sox are good again (optimistically presumptuous), Cordell could be a key member of a contending team. You want players like him.