“A really, really great kid,” enthused Tinnish. “(He’s) bilingual, great make up, ultra young in the class – a late May birthday – he really has lead-off or #2 hole potential….if you asked me right now who has a chance to play SS in your system, Leo would be at the top of that list. The way the body moves, the way the arm works, the instincts, he’s a really good, future upside defender.”
This was Blue Jays VP and head of International Ops Andrew Tinnish’s evaluation of Jimenez when they signed him in 2017. Over the first two seasons of his pro career, the former Panamanian National Team lead off hitter (at the tender age of 15) had established a glove-first reputation. In naming him the Appy League’s 14th ranked prospect in 2019, Baseball America confirmed his supposed offensive shortcomings:
Without much in the way of standout tools or physical projection, Jimenez will need to continue playing premium defense at shortstop and getting on base at a solid clip to provide value. He’s an instinctual player on both sides of the ball who gets by more with instincts, good reads and a solid first step than above-average range or arm strength, and his game will be challenged as he moves up the minor league ladder.
Lacking the offensive upside of fellow prospects Orelvis Martinez and Miguel Hiraldo, Jimenez has nonetheless made huge strides with the bat, and both Blue Jays minor league hitting coordinator Hunter Mense and Ben Badler of BA took notice of his improvement at the October Florida development camp. Mense noted that Jimenez has gotten stronger, and barreled up a number of balls in Florida, hitting a personal-best 104 exit velo on one occasion. Badler nominated Jimenez as a potential breakout candidate.
The bilingual Jimenez has always impressed the organization with his baseball smarts, smooth defensive actions, and ability to get on base. If he’s added an ability to drive the ball, that will only help him moving forward. If/when minor league baseball resumes this season, Vancouver’s infield of Jimenez/Hiraldo/Martinez will make for must viewing. That seems their likely destination to at least start the season.