Detroit Tigers 40-Man Roster Preview: Jeimer Candelario
Jeimer Candelario finds himself in a battle for third base with Dawiel Lugo in Spring Training but he is the long term solution for the Detroit Tigers?
Jeimer Candelario had himself quite the winter. He won series MVP for Los Toros Del Este in the Dominican Winter Ball championship final series, hitting .347 with 2 homers and 6 RBIs and in the Round Robin series, he hit .347 and collected 20 hits in 18 games. This was exactly the pick me up that Candelario needed after a disappointing 2019 season.
After a season in 2018 in which he hit .224 with 19 home runs with 54 RBIs and posting a 2.0 WAR season, he found himself down in Toledo in early June after starting the season hitting .178. The power was gone as he hit only two homers up to that point. After 39 games in which he mashed the juiced ball for the Mud Hens, he found himself back up in Detroit. He would go on to have a two-home run game against the Boston Red Sox in July but found himself playing first base and competing with Lugo for third. As a switch-hitter, his splits did not change much against left-handers or right-handers last year compared to 2018. In 2018, he hit lefties at a clip of .291 with less power, 6 home runs as compared to 13 on the right side but hitting at .199 clip. In 2019, he hit against lefties just .193 and of his 8 home runs, 6 came from the right-side.
What keeps him up at this level? His walk rate was among the team leaders in 2019 as his walk percentage was at 10% and his fWAR defensively was at 2.5. Fangraphs ZiPS projects him to have a similar season to his 2018 campaign with 18 home runs, 61 RBIs with a wRC+ of 93 with around the same walk rate and a BABIP of .291. He is also projected to have a 2.2 fWAR season, mainly on because of his defense which I will get back to in a second. The BABIP is important because last year, it was .262 after a 2018 season in which he produced a .276 BABIP. There is also one more sign to be encouraged about in his 2019 season.
Now, onto his defense. He was among the top players in OAA or Outs Above Average. Per Baseball Savant, Outs Above Average is the cumulative effect of all individual plays a fielder has been credited or debited with, making it a range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them. Candelario was ranked 17th, just below Anthony Rendon.
Isaac Paredes, who saw a lot of action at 3rd base in Erie last season after playing short shop since coming over with Jeimer in the Justin Wilson deal, is waiting in the wings in addition to Lugo in spring camp. Jeimer has more upside than Lugo with a better walk rate and better defensive numbers. He showed versatility playing a bit of first base so that could come in handy in case C.J Cron goes down with an injury, which is possible, considering his injury history.
This is the year Candelario has to nail down the job for good. He has no minor league options left. There is a tremendous upside to Jeimer. He works hard, a great teammate and his faith is very important to him and he talks openly about it. His father, Rogelio, was a minor league player in the Astros system so he has some pedigree which many Tigers fan may or may not know about his background. Outside of the bullpen, third base and the backup catcher positions are up for grabs. Jeimer should have the inside track, let’s see if he can separate himself from the pack.