Chicago Cubs: Is Jeimer Candelario ready to seize a roster spot?
There’s always a storyline to the Chicago Cubs Spring Training that you don’t expect. As fans, this camp started and most of us knew who was going to be in Chicago to start the year. But there’s one one prospect that didn’t get the memo, and that’s Jeimer Candelario.
He isn’t the next Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber. The Chicago Cubs‘ Jeimer Candelario spent a grand total of five games with the Cubs. He acquired his first–and only–Major League hit. But after a strong minor league campaign, Candelario came into camp on a mission. As most of us were talking about the roster decision that came down to Tommy La Stella and Matt Szczur, Candelario has slowly been working to steal it away from one of those two.
Anthony Rizzo has been slowed by a stiff back which could lead to an opportunity for Candelario. The Cubs have a plethora of third baseman, a spot that he plays well. But the Cubs could use his bat in the right situation–should he be called on. So does his infield status mean La Stella is the off man out? Not necessarily.
"“He’s just different this year,” Joe Maddon said. “He’s more comfortable. … He watches, he listens, he’s quiet, but he’s engaged. He’s engaged really well. He’s gonna be a nice player.”"
I recently talked about La Stella’s “status” within the organization. But it’s really less about status and more about options. Meaning La Stella has them, Szczur doesn’t. That would play well in Candelario’s favor, who’s been a breakout spring star for the Cubs.
Tearing it up this spring
Before getting hit in the ankle by a pitch against the Texas Rangers, Candelario was five for his last six. He’s played in nine games and leads the Cubs in hits (8) and at-bats (25)–including a pinch-hit RBI against Team Italy on Tuesday. With the rest that Maddon has afforded many of the starters, he’s had a chance to prove himself. Candelario hasn’t missed that opportunity.
"“Love the guy,” Maddon said. “He showed it to us last spring. I think he went out at the beginning of last season and might’ve applied a little bit too much pressure to himself. Finally, the numbers righted themselves by the end of the year."
The Cubs have made a point to wait and bring players up when they’re “clicking”, and are more likely for success. But this is the second spring in which Candelario has played well. Would the Cubs consider him for a roster spot over possibly La Stella or Szczur? Or what about carrying one less pitcher than originally talked about?
Next: Cubs trying to work around new hazing policy
While there’s still plenty of baseball to play this spring, Candelario is making a strong argument for a spot. And also giving Cubs’ fans a reason to tune in and watch the young man play. At the beginning of camp, odds were against him making the roster. But that’s the joy of the spring, hope springs eternal.