Signed as an International Free Agent in 2001 at the age of 16, Cesar Jimenez has had many ups and downs in his pro career with the Mariners. He has shined as a starter in the past, but the now 26-year-old is exclusively a reliever--a role that his handedness and lack of starter-quality reportoire seem to be a best fit for.
After battling serious arm injuries the past two seasons (just 28 2/3 IP in 2009 and 2010 combined), Jimenez performed well for the Tacoma Rainiers this season in his sixth trip through a Triple-A schedule: 10.3 SO/9 and a 4.06 ERA in 71 innings in the hitter-friendly atmosphere is solid.
But tonight in Oakland, all of us--including Jimenez--got to see the difference between Triple-A hitters and Big League hitters.
Jimenez's fastball was 87-90, though that is not his primary weapon. His changeup did generate a swing-and-miss strike, but that pitch--which he throws with good arm action and which has good fade--simply isn't enough to keep hitters off-balance at the big league level, and the reason is something that everyone should become familiar with: command.
While everyone understands control, basic balls and strikes, command is the ability to throw quality strikes. In other words, instead of just getting a pitch over, getting it over in a certain quadrant of the zone--a location which maximizes the pitches ability to be effective. Pitches that set up future pitches. Since Jimenez cannot beat major league hitters with his fastball and since his slider is below average at best, he needs that changeup. And since he doesn't have plus command of any of those pitches, he simply doesn't have the ability to succeed at the big league level, in my opinion.
His changeup works well against right-handed hitters at times (which was much of his 2008 big league success: 3.6 runs above average for his changeup), but his slider doesn't have enough break to be effective against left-handers, and his fastball doesn't have enough movement to keep them honest against the fastball. In essence, lefties need only look for the fastball and righties only need to worry about the changeup. And, again, he doesn't command any of those pitches well enough to succeed.
The biggest reason that I have to come to this conclusion is based on what is now seemingly Cesar Jimenez's role: that of a left-handed specialist type reliever. His stuff doesn't play up to lefties, and his changeup--while an effective pitch at times--isn't good enough to keep right-handed hitters off balance from his weaker secondary offerings.
I'm glad that the Mariners are giving him another shot in the big leagues with the expanded rosters this September, but it is very clear to me that Cesar Jimenez should not have a serious shot at a major league role for the Mariners going forward.