In the late 90s, D’Angelo Jiménez was considered one of the best prospects in baseball. Minor league experts ranging from ESPN.com’s John Sickels to BP’s Rany Jazayerli rated Jiménez as a better prospect than Alfonso Soriano, another young infielder in the Yankee system. But in January of 2000, Jiménez suffered severe injuries when his car collided with a bus on a highway in the Dominican. The injuries sustained robbed him the opportunity to compete for a position in the Yankees infield, as Jiménez was coming off big seasons in the Triple-A International and Dominican Winter leagues, and was expected to make the big club that season. He’s since moved through the White Sox and Padres organizations, with both clubs souring on him due to periodic struggles at the plate and on defense. His overall profile remains that of an effective hitter with moderate power and good plate discipline, making Jiménez one of the most underappreciated players in the game. In 2003 he landed in Cincinnati, putting up a solid line of .290/.365/.421 in 290 at-bats with the Reds. This winter in the Dominican the 26-year-old infielder had arguably the best offensive season for a second baseman in the history of the league, winning the batting title (.360), flirting with the single-season OBP record before finishing at .485, and also slugging an even .500, all while playing half his games in a pitcher’s park. Baseball Prospectus recently chatted with Jiménez before a game between the Azucareros del Este and the Licey Tigers.
Ivan Rodriguez and Greg Maddux are still on the market. For that matter, so are Mark McLemore, Shawn Estes, Todd Zeile, and Dave Veres. But I think we’ve seen enough to evaluate this winter’s free-agent signings. Today, the best. Tomorrow, the worst.