The Next Great Reliever
It can be quite difficult to predict which prospects will end up as high-end relievers in the big leagues. Edwin Diaz started out the 2016 season as a starting pitcher in Double-A, but by the end of the season he had eighteen saves for the Mariners. Now, he’s ranked fifth on our list of dynasty relief pitchers. You had to be paying attention to see that coming, but sometimes, the rise of an potentially dominant reliever is a bit more obvious. To find one of those reliever prospects, we have to look no further than Diaz’s Puerto Rican World Baseball Classic teammate: Joe Jimenez.
Jimenez was signed by the Tigers in 2013, a week after going undrafted in the amateur draft. By 2015, Jimenez was shutting down A-Ball to the tune of a 1.47 ERA over 43 innings, and continued that trend last season between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. In 53.2 total innings, he had a mere 1.51 ERA while striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. Jimenez held opponents to a measly .144 batting average, and had an excellent 78/17 strikeout to walk ratio. Rocketing through the ranks and more than proving himself at every level, Jimenez earned the Tigers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year award in both 2015 and 2016. Now, the only question is when he’ll see his biggest test in the majors.
The Tigers have the active saves leader at the helm, closing out games in Francisco Rodriguez. However, he’s heading into his age-35 season and may need some more help sooner or later. Already in the bigs is 26-year-old Bruce Rondon, who had a solid 2016 but hasn’t yet spent a full season with the Tigers. Still, he’s got late-inning stuff, and could be Jimenez’s biggest adversary for the closing role for years to come. Regardless, if Jimenez can translate his minor league success to the majors, he would quickly be one of the top closers in the game.
If all goes according to plan, there’s little doubt in my mind that we’ll see Jimenez in the majors in 2017. He threw just three scoreless innings in the World Baseball Classic and a couple frames in Spring Training, and, while he’s likely to start the season at Triple-A, it shouldn’t be long before he’s in the Tigers bullpen. While you may be deterred by Jimenez’s lack of track record or acclaim in dynasty circles–the righty came in at number 69 on our list of dynasty relief pitchers this year–it’s not uncommon for young relievers to come out of nowhere…keep in mind that Edwin Diaz wasn’t on the list at all last year. Jimenez could easily shoot up the list by next season, and, should you have a roster spot, there’s no reason not to give this potentially elite bullpen arm a shot.