What, you thought after two straight years of big-time Cubs prospect debuts the well was dry? That more weren’t coming?
It’s funny, even as we were saying before the season that, at some point, the trio of Albert Almora, Willson Contreras, and Jeimer Candelario would make their big league debuts this season, it’s a strange thing when it actually happens. And I can say I definitely didn’t expect all three to debut before the Fourth of July, and I certainly didn’t expect all three to be on the roster at the same time on July 3.
But that’s where we are, as Jeimer Candelario is coming up to the big league team and starting at third base today. (Facing Noah freaking Syndergaard. Welcome to The Show, kid.)
It is at once really exciting to see all these youthful debuts, but, on the other hand, it also means things aren’t going perfectly at the big league level. With injuries to multiple players – the latest coming to Chris Coghlan, who hits the disabled list with a rib cage injury – the young players are being thrown to the wolves. At a minimum, it’s going to help with their long-term development. Probably.
As for Candelario, he’s been destroying AAA since an early season promotion from AA, which came after he tore up Spring Training, which came after he tore up the Arizona Fall League, which came after he tore up AA. Candelario is just 22, and is a third baseman by trade. With Kris Bryant’s extreme flexibility, the Cubs can afford to open up that position, temporarily, for Candelario, and use Bryant in the outfield, where he’s been incredibly good defensively. The rub, of course, is that, in that setup, when Candelario starts, Javy Baez would have to find a start elsewhere. It’s a good problem to have, and, in the end, I suspect it won’t last too long, as Baez is probably going to be the guy more able to help this team on a consistent basis at this point. Which is not to say getting Candelario a taste of the big leagues is a bad thing, even if it means he’s not starting regularly.
Throw in the fact that this could be a short-term move, and the fact that Candelario is already on the 40-man roster, his selection makes plenty of sense right now.
It’ll be interesting to see how he handles himself defensively, with scouting reports in recent years ranging from some of the most extremes I’ve seen – from “he can’t play there” to “he’s gonna be a Gold Glover”. It reminds me of what folks used to say about Bryant at third base, and, for what it’s probably not worth, that turned out pretty darn well. With Jon Lester on the mound, Joe Maddon has tended to prefer optimum defense on the left side of the field.
How long will Candelario stick around? Well, it depends on the rest of the roster and, of course, his performance. I suspect he’ll probably go right back down when Tommy La Stella is ready to return, which could come soon.
One more thing: Candelario is originally from New York, which means he’ll probably have a lot of friends and family in attendance. So it’s pretty awesome that he’s going to get to make his debut there.