February 23, 2012; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer watches during spring training at Fitch Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Taking a step back in our Down on the Farm series, lets take a look at Chicago Cubs eighth ranked prospect according to Baseball America. The switch-hitting third baseman, Jeimer Candelario, is believed to have the best strike-zone discipline out of current Cubs’ prospects, shows consistency at the plate, as well as an ability to hit for power.
Born in New York, Candelario would likely call San Pedro de Macoris of the Domincan Republic his home. The son of a former Astros prospect, Candelario has been around baseball his entire life. The Cubs signed Candelario out of the Dominican Republic at just 16 years old. You may not have heard of him, as this prospect has not gotten the same recognition as Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and other Cubs top 10 prospects, but that will likely change in the not-so-distant future.
Known to his friends as “Candy”, it’s no pun or coincidence that players and coaches at the Cubs’ academy in the Dominican Republic refer to him as Baby Ruth. Candy credits his knowledge of hitting to his dad, who was, as mentioned, a former pitcher in the Houston system. His father became more of a hitter after returning home upon his release from the Astros. It was there that Jeimer found his passion for swinging the bat. His father’s teaching has paid off thus far, as Candy has posted a .282/.346/.396 career line with 35 doubles, 22 home runs, 144 walks, and 157 RBIs in 1027 minor league at-bats.
Candy’s ability to see pitches and draw walks earned him an aggressive promotion to High-A Kane County. He is a batter that likes to watch the first pitch, which fits perfectly with the mentality and approach of the Epstein regime. In his first full professional season, Candy showed that his career averages were no fluke. In 500 at-bats, Candelario walked 68 times with 88 strikeouts. His consistency remained throughout his season at a higher level, but concerns lingered over his defense.
Having mostly played third base, Candelario can occasionally play first base, as well. That being said, all of his 63 career errors have come at third base. In each of his three seasons, Candelario’s deficiencies on defense have gotten worse almost as consistently as his offense has improved. In 2011 he committed 17 errors, with 20 coming in 2012, and 26 in 2013. To his credit, in 2011 and 2012 he only played 72 and 71 games, respectively, as opposed to the 130 games that he played in Kane County.
Expect Jeimer Candelario to be a solid utility infielder. His outstanding plate presence gives the Cubs a solid bat off the bench. While his defensive ability is expected to improve by leaps and bounds, there simply isn’t space in the everyday lineup for him, assuming Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez pan out as expected. There may also be teams around the MLB that are willing to trade for him, with him having spent time at both corner infield positions, as well as designated hitter. However, every team needs reliable bench players, which is something the Cubs have lacked since trading Reed Johnson. Fans could see Candelario in Wrigley as early as 2014, but more than likely he will get the call sometime in 2015.