Jeimer Candelario went from a question mark last spring to earning a spot on the 40-man roster. One of the top prospects in the organization has picked up this spring where he left off in the fall. Candelario is ticketed for Triple-A Iowa but is making quite the impression on Joe Maddon and the coaching staff in big league camp.
Candelario struggled through the 2014 season. After beginning the year at High-A Daytona, Candelario was sent back to Low-A Kane County after 62 games. Candelario hit a combined .233/.288/.379 with 29 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs for a .667 OPS in 125 games.
The Cubs sent Candelario to High-A Myrtle Beach for the start of last season. Candelario performed rather well. Candelario batted .270/.318/.415 in 82 games with the Pelicans. Candelario had 25 doubles, three triples, five home runs and a .733 OPS. Candelario earned a promotion to Double-A Tennessee. And he excelled at the higher level.
In 46 games with the Smokies, Candelario hit .291/.379/.462 with 10 doubles, a triple and five home runs for a .841 OPS. The 21-year old finished the season with a combined .277/.339/.431 slash line in 128 games for the Pelicans and Smokies with 35 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs for a .770 OPS.
Jeimer Candelario really opened eyes with his play both offensively and defensively in the Arizona Fall League. In 21 games, Candelario hit .329/.371/.610 with eight doubles and five triples for a .981 OPS.
The Cubs added Candelario to the 40-man roster and he’s in big league camp this spring for the first time.
Joe Maddon has really liked what he’s seen from the now 22-year old Candelario this spring.
“We all like him. It’s no big secret. Sometimes you look at a position and you say that’s really a thick position; when does this guy get a chance to play? And then you find out way too soon. So you just keep it rolling, keep moving him forward,” Maddon said to the Sun-Times. “Your depth’s always going to be challenged. The big thing with a guy like him is to keep him working, that hopefully it plays out the way you think it’s going to be, get him ready and then see what happen at that point.”
Candelario is batting .333/.385/.667 in 10 games with two doubles and two home runs for a 1.051 OPS. Candelario is 8-for-24 with two walks and three strikeouts. Candelario played in seven straight games, starting the last five.
After collecting hits from both sides of the plate Saturday, Candelario smacked his second homer of the spring Sunday. Candelario had three more hits in four at bats, and likely should have had a fourth. Franklin Barreto made a leaping catch to take a hit away from him in his last at bat. Over his last five games, Candelario is 8-for-17 with two doubles and two home runs.
Miguel Montero is also a fan of Candelario. Montero compared Candelario to Aramis Ramirez and thinks he could be a Gold Glove third baseman in the majors.
“I love the kid,” Montero said to Carrie Muskat. “For me, he’s going to be a big league Gold Glove, solid third baseman. Watching him play, he reminds me of Aramis Ramirez, but a switch hitter.”
The Cubs do not have to make a decision on Candelario any time soon. He has three minor league options. The Cubs will use one of those options this year. Candelario will spend this season on an optional assignment.
Jeimer Candelario is expected to begin the season with Triple-A Iowa. And if an injury creates an opportunity for him, Candelario will be a phone call away until the front office decides there is another way he could benefit the big league team.