I’d say for most hardcore Cubs fans and BN’ers, Chicago Cubs prospect Jeimer Candelario broke out when he reached AA this past summer. There, he hit .291/.379/.462 (140 wRC+), while posting an incredible 12.1% BB rate and 11.5% K rate.
For much of the baseball world, however, it wasn’t until Candelario slapped around the pitching in the Arizona Fall League that he landed squarely on the radar. There, he hit .329/.371/.610, and posted the fifth best OPS in the prospect-laden league. And his stint ended – well, chronologically, if not actually – in a freshly-minted spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster.
The stint also earned him all kinds of post-AFL attention and honors:
- MLB Pipeline named him the third baseman on the All-AFL team, and said that he “arguably was the top breakout prospect in this year’s Fall League.”
- Similarly, Jonathan Mayo put Candelario on his list of 10 breakout AFL prospects.
- ESPN’s Eric Longenhagen questioned the glove, but noted that Candelario “can really hit,” and comes with a future 60 hit tool (that’s very, very good).
Candelario figures to keep working at third base in the near-term, which raises questions about where he’ll open the season. At AA Tennessee, there’s a clear spot for him, but he had so much success there offensively in a half-season, and is now on the 40-man roster, that you might like to see him taking on the next challenge at AAA. There at Iowa, Christian Villanueva – still a legit guy! – would theoretically be drawing most of the starts, but the Cubs might not want to hold back the higher-upside prospect in Candelario if they feel he can become passable at third base. Then again, even if Candelario does become a passable MLB-caliber third baseman … where would he actually play in the big leagues? Probably not third base, at least not with the Cubs, right?
That is all to say, it’ll be interesting to see what level at which Candelario opens the 2016 (probably AAA), and at what position (probably third base). That assumes, of course, that he isn’t included in a deal before then (which also goes for Villanueva).