The Detroit Tigers bullpen has had its fair share of woes. While there are signs of improvement, there is an internal way to improve the teams relief corps. The second half is Joe Jimenez‘ time.
Detroit Tigers fans who do not closely follow all the minor league happenings still know the legend of Joe Jimenez. Every time Mark Lowe gives up a home run, the rumblings start. After every blown save, people start to talk.
The cry for Joe Jimenez may not be as prevalent as it should be but if all fans knew of the flame throwing statistical anomaly pitching in Double-A Erie they too may be asking when he will be in Detroit.
For fans not aware of who Jimenez is, let me catch you up to speed. Jimenez was signed by the Tigers out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2013. Just two years later the then 20-year-old right hander was named the Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2015.
After playing for three of the lowest minor league levels to begin his career including the Gulf Coast League Tigers, Connecticut Tigers and West Michigan Whitecaps, Jimenez began 2016 in Lakeland before getting called up to Double-A Erie earlier this season.
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Sunday night was Jimenez’s second consecutive time pitching in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. Although every team gets a representative, being selected for the team was no small feat seeing as Jimenez hardly finds his way onto national prospect lists.
Facing only one batter, Jimenez threw three pitches and worked Team World out of a first and third jam by getting his hitter to fly out to center field.
Jimenez success has quietly lasted his entire minor league career. In his first professional season Jimenez surrendered one run in eight games on route to a 3-0 season out of the bullpen.
Fast forward to 2016 where his scoreless innings streak was nothing short of impressive. It took him 31.1 innings dating back to 2015 before Jimenez finally allowed a run while still getting the save in late June. He has not given up a run since bringing his season ERA to 0.29.
His development has been the most staggering part of his game. Jimenez entered the league throwing fastballs almost exclusively.
Sometime throughout his career he began using slider which now has wipe out qualities and may be his second best pitch.
Jimenez might become even more dangerous if ends up adding a third pitch. If he cannot however it should not hurt his game, as many relievers only need two pitches to succeed anyways.
There is a glaring need for a Jimenez-quality arm in the majors. After dominating at every minor league level there is no reason to send Jimenez to Triple-A. There is nothing for him to prove in Toledo that he has not proved at any other level. Allowing Jimenez to slot into the middle innings and pitch in low-to-mid pressure situations can only help the Tigers.
Jimenez would also have a mentor in veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez who was once a 20 year-old phenom reliever for the Los Angeles Angels. K-Rod would be the perfect person to take Jimenez under his wing and bounce advice off of.
Manager Brad Ausmus was asked about promoting Jimenez in June and was hesitant to indulge in his success. Ausmus is correct, there is a big difference between major league hitters and double-A hitters. Nevertheless, there is a need for a bullpen arm, there is a mentor for him in Detroit and no harm can be done by giving him a shot. Watching Jimenez pitch is worth the MiLB.tv subscription alone.