With just a few weeks left in a depressing 2017, the Detroit Tigers have very little to play for. However, some Tigers are auditioning for a larger role in 2018, specifically those who have been recently called up from the minors. One player that will have the attention of many fans is Jeimer Candelario, the third baseman who made his way over from Chicago around the trade deadline.
Candelario has only logged a handful of games with Detroit after making just 16 appearances over two seasons with the Cubs. He immediately become one of the top prospects in the Tigers’ farm system and has the hype of a potential everyday starter at third base. In fact, reports of Nicholas Castellanos trying out his glove in the outfield only further cement the idea of Candelario owning a spot in the starting lineup sooner than later.
For that to happen, Candelario will need to prove that he can attack major league pitching. Though the Tigers are unlikely to be competing for a playoff spot next season, there is no reason to put a young player in a situation for which he is not ready. The remainder of September offers him a chance to show that he belongs on the Tigers’ roster next spring.
What to watch for
Candelario spent 2016 between Double-A and Triple-A with only a brief stint in the majors, and the majority of his 2017 at bats have come at the Triple-A level as well. He hit .278 in 2016 and .265 in 2017, belting 13 and 15 home runs, respectively. This season he has seen his strikeout rate to jump from 18 percent to 23 percent, while his walk rate has fallen from 13 percent to 10 percent.
His short time in the majors has mirrored these trends. Candelario has a .245 batting average with one homer in 17 games, striking out over 25 percent of the time while recording a walk rate of 6.8 percent. Between Chicago and Detroit, Candelario has combined for 88 wRC+ in 2017. None of these numbers are overly inspiring, but none are too alarming either.
Candelario may never be a power hitter, but he does have some pop in his bat. One would expect his average and his plate discipline to grow as he gains experience against big league pitchers, and he has the potential to be an above-average hitter with enough power to be a solid contributor in the lineup.
Initial trade reactions showed mixed opinions on Candelario’s defense, which could factor into his roster spot next season. In limited innings he has looked average at worst, and even that would be a large improvement over the Tigers’ current defense at the hot corner. He will always be a bat-first player, but being able to hold his own defensively will only help his case going forward.
Over the next few weeks, the key for Candelario will be patience at the plate. If he can control his strikeout and walk numbers and add in a little power, the Tigers may be convinced to start him out on the major league roster in 2018. Being defensively competent will also help his argument, and avoiding the bad mistakes is something that can put him a step above Castellanos.
For all intents and purposes, spring training has started early for Candelario. The month of September will not be his last shot at a spot with the Tigers, but it could go a long way in fast-tracking his major league career.