I first became aware of Luis Antonio Jimenez in 2002, when, as a 2o-year-old Orioles farmhand, he tore up the Appy League to the tune of a .375 average, eight homers and 42 RBI in 211 at-bats. The especially curious thing about it was that the A’s had released him the year before.
Although Jimenez seemingly came out of nowhere, Baseball America thought enough of that 51-game campaign to make him the Orioles’ No. 4 prospect entering 2003, placing him behind Erik Bedard, Darnell McDonald and Daniel Cabrera. But that ranking turned bust in a hurry. Jimenez hit .244 with just one homer in low-A ball that year. Let go again, he quickly turned into a journeyman minor leaguer, spending one year apiece in the Dodgers, Twins and Red Sox systems. He rejoined the Orioles in 2007, moved to the Nationals system in 2008 and then gave Japan a try in 2009.
Once Jimenez washed out as a Nippon Ham Fighter, it figured he was done for good. However, he showed up again in the minors in 2011, hitting .294 with 16 homers between the Mariners’ top two farm clubs. Back with Triple-A Tacoma this season, he hit .310/.394/.514 with 20 homers, earning him his first major league callup this month.
Now Jimenez is getting his first start tonight as the Mariners’ DH and No. 8 hitter against the A’s. I’m not really expecting much of anything, but he certainly deserves credit for perseverance. Jimenez played in nine different leagues in 11 seasons before getting his callup this week. Hopefully he manages to hit one homer before the year is out.
The Atlanta Braves selected high school pitcher Carter Stewart with the number eight overall pick in the 2018 draft. Then, after the draft, they gave Stewart a below-slot signing bonus offer, claiming that they found problems with his wrist in his post-draft physical. Stewart ended up rejecting the offer and the MLBPA filed a grievance against the Braves on Stewart’s behalf.
The grievance sought to make Stewart a free agent it was considered a long shot at the time of its filing and, in fact, the grievance was rejected. Stewart, unable to attain free agency, enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, a two-year school that would’ve made him eligible for the 2019 draft.
Now, Ken Rosenthal reports, Stewart has pulled a crazy Ivan and is heading to Japan, having signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. The terms of the deal aren’t known, but Rosenthal says Stewart was looking for a $7 million guarantee.
It’s a fascinating turn of events for Stewart who, this time last year, was considered perhaps the best amateur pitcher in baseball. Being lowballed and having his health questioned by the Braves may have been a wakeup call to Stewart, however, about his chances of finding a quick path the bigs in the U.S. If the shine did come off of his prospect status in the past year here, there’s every reason to believe that $7 million and a path to the bigs in Japan is a much better deal than several million less and a path to the bigs in America.
He’ll be worth watching over the next few years, that’s for sure. Both for his own sake and to see if, in this era of Major League Baseball’s capping of amateur bonuses and teams’ habit of manipulating service time, going overseas becomes more attractive to American high schoolers and college players.