Following Wednesday’s loss to the Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers optioned third baseman Jeimer Candelario to Triple-A Toledo. Manager Ron Gardenhire broke the news in his postgame press conference, but the team has yet to announce a corresponding move.
Candelario showed some promise in his first full season with the Tigers in 2018, batting .224/.317/.393. This was largely buoyed by a monster first half, in which he produced a .753 OPS and 13 home runs before the All-Star break. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse. Candelario battled a chronic wrist injury throughout the season, and finished the year hitting .223/.306/.348 in the second half.
Unfortunately for him, his offensive numbers have only gotten worse in 2019. Candelario produced a paltry .617 OPS in March and April, and has been in a bad funk since then, with just six hits in 47 May at-bats. He is now hitting .192/.285/.288 for the year with just two home runs. While he has maintained a healthy 10.9 percent walk rate, he has struck out in 27.9 percent of plate appearances, and is up north of 31 percent in the month of May.
Thankfully, Candelario’s struggles have not translated over to the defensive side of the ball. Though he committed an error on Wednesday, he has been worth +4 defensive runs saved (DRS) this season, fourth among MLB third basemen. He finished the 2018 season with -1 DRS in 144 games played, but was on the positive side of the UZR ledger, at +3.5.
The Tigers will announce a corresponding move on Thursday morning prior to their 1:10 p.m. start against the Oakland Athletics. With nine pitchers already on the active roster, they will almost surely call up an infielder of some sort. Infielder Harold Castro is ineligible to be recalled because he was sent down just three days ago, so the most likely options are second baseman Dawel Lugo or shortstop Willi Castro.
Lugo has played all over the infield in his minor league career, but played exclusively at second base when the Tigers called him up last September. He has enjoyed a strong start to the year, hitting .336/.390/.467 with 11 extra-base hits in 31 games. More importantly, he has already surpassed his 2018 walk total with 11 free passes drawn. Castro has yet to appear in the majors, but is certainly making his case for a call-up. He has hit .319/.407/.437 with five doubles and three triples in his first extended look at the Triple-A level.
If Castro is called up, expect Ronny Rodriguez to slide over to third base for the time being. Lugo could play either second or third, with Josh Harrison moving to the hot corner if necessary. Harrison has logged 266 games at third base in his career.