2013 Cubs Prospects in Review: Jeimer Candelario

In continuing with the theme of Cubs' 3rd basemen, I thought I'd take a look at the crazily young (for his history) Jeimer Candelario.

Jeimer has an interesting story. He was originally born in NYC, but was raised in the Dominican Republic. As a 16-year old there, he was signed to a hefty $500,000 dollar contract. From there, he was sent to DoSL as a 17-year old (where he dominated). He was sent to Boise in 2012 (as an 18-year old), where he was quite adequate. In fact, if you combine his 17/18 year old seasons, he had a "full-season" line of 143 G, 615 PA, 11 HR, 100 RBI, 6 SB, .307/.387/.435. That was good enough to earn Jeimer a pretty aggressive promotion to full-season Kane County for 2013.

Performance

Candelario played the whole season at third and at Kane County. On the year, he hit .256/.346/.396, remarkably similar to his .281/.345/.396 mark from last year. His line this year was actually considerably more impressive: his BABIP fell 37 points, but his on-base skills rose (11.9% BB rate), his contact rate went up (15.4% K rate from 17.7%), and his power increased too. When your power and patience both grow and your K rate falls, it's a successful season, basically no matter what. He also hit 35 doubles and homered 11 times, which is pretty impressive power.

Candelario was the 11th youngest player in the league this year (Albert Almora is 8th on this list). If you include players with at least 300 PAs, he's 5th. The other players are Orlando Arcia (an intriguing prospect in the Brewers system who also had a .647 OPS this season), Carlos Correa (the #1 pick in 2012), Dorssys Paulino (another intriguing prospect in the Indians system who also had a .646 OPS this season), and Byron Buxton (the #1 prospect in all of baseball). That's quite the company to be in, honestly.

Scouting

The book on Candelario was that he lacked the body and range to play 3B (where his bat plays just fine), and he might have to move to a corner or 1B (which would make Candelario a much, much less impressive prospect). However, those concerns have more-or-less evaporated. Candelario was thinner this year, with improved range. He's also got a quick bat, which manifests itself in his low K rate. He's also still growing, and his power could end up in the 15-20 bombs a year range. 

Baseball America was bullish on Jeimer last year, listing him as the #8 prospect in the system. He was #15 in Sickels' list (whose main negative was the defense, which improved). Baseball Prospectus doesn't have a lot on him; he didn't make the Top 10, but was one of the Prospects on the Rise. Reports are basically uniformly complimentary of his bat and approach and critical of his defense. If that critique goes away (and my feeling is that it will), Candelario could take a huge step forward next season.

With a 19-year old in full-season ball, you've also got to worry about adjusting to life in the grind, away from home. Whether it's related to his birth in NYC or not (I'm not really sure how long he stayed in America before leaving for the Dominican), he's seemed to adjust to that transition very well. 

Outlook

There's nothing for him left in KC, so I'd imagine he'll play every game next season in Daytona. If his glove can just be adequate at 3rd, there's no reason for him not to start being considered as a potential big-league regular at the position (for the Cubs or elsewhere). 3B is the biggest logjam the Cubs currently have, with Kris Bryant being a potential MVP candidate down the road, Olt being a year away from being untouchable and still having every chance to be a successful 3B, and the suddenly rejuvenated Christian Villanueva all being ahead of him on depth chart if not the prospect list. Call me crazy, though; I'm not at all sure I wouldn't rather have Candelario than even Olt at this point (which speaks both of my feelings about Candelario and Olt, I guess). In an average system, Candelario is the type of prospect that would be 5th-7th in the organization. In the Cubs, he's in the discussion for the 10th spot or so. As bad as the Cubs are in the majors (and they're horrible), the minors are going to be so much fun to watch next year.

2013 Cubs Prospect Reviews

 

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