Another man down, another prospect headed to the majors. The Cubs placed OF Chris Coghlan on the DL with a right side injury and called up 3B Jeimer Candelario from Iowa. The 22-year-old will start at third and bat 6th against the Mets Noah Syndergaard in his MLB debut.
Alright, for starters, Candelario is not a finished product and he’s doesn’t have gold glove potential. He’s got great hands, a strong arm but he’s not a vacuum cleaner at third so if/when he makes an error, you’ve been warned.
Second, he’s up because on an injury, not because he had nothing left to prove in the minors. He’s on the Cubs 40-man roster as they protected him from last fall’s Rule 5 draft after a solid 2015 campaign. And that’s enough with the disclaimers, the kid can play and is a doubles machine.
Unlike Kyle Schwarber or Kris Bryant, Candelario overcame adversity on his road to the majors. Born in New York, Candelario grew up in the Dominican Republic and signed a reported $500,000 deal with the Cubs back in 2010 with IFA classmates Carlos Penalver, Jeffrey Baez and Daury Torrez.
In his first pro season, Candelario made a name for himself in the Dominican Summer League—hitting .337/.443/.478 with 50 BB and 42 K in 72 games. That performance, along with a strong extended spring training, earned a promotion to the Northwest League. The 18-year-old hit .281/.345/.396 for Boise and then slugged 11 homers and 35 doubles at Kane County in 2013 with a slash of .256/.346/.396.
On everyone’s prospect radar, Candelario struggled at High A Daytona to start 2014 and after a .193 average was sent back to Kane County. What was interesting about Candelario’s stint in the FSL was his defense as he struggled early (9 E in 22 G) but didn’t have a miscue over his final 40 games.
Candelario responded well to the move back to the Midwest League, working on his swing with hitting coach Tom Byers and learning the finer points of the game with then manager Mark Johnson. Worried more about winning than personal stats, Candelario helped the Cougars to the best record in the minors and a sweep in the MWL playoffs, batting .250/.300/.426, 6 HR, 19 2B in 63 games.
Candelario’s second stint in High A only lasted 82 games before he earned a mid-season promotion to AA Tennessee last season. He finished the year batting .277/.339/.431 between the two levels with 35 doubles.
Back in AA to start this year, Candelario’s batting average .219 may have drawn some criticism but when he was promoted to AAA, was among the Southern League leaders in doubles with 17. In 25 games in Iowa, Candelario is having his best stop at an affiliate since his days in the DSL, batting .333/.452/.600 with 3 HR and 15 RBI.
Before you run out and buy a Candelario jersey, you may want to pump the brakes as it may not arrive before he ends up back in Iowa. Tommy La Stella’s rehab run was suppose to be over before the Cubs hit New York but he’s still in Iowa and didn’t play in either end of a DH yesterday in Round Rock. Its likely, Candelario will head back to AAA when La Stella is ready.