MLB Pipeline has been rolling out positional prospect rankings this week, and now Jeimer Candelario makes the cut among the top 10 third base prospects in all of baseball. If you recall, MLB Pipeline has been releasing one top 10 list (by position) a day in anticipation of the full MLB Pipeline Top 100 reveal this Friday. So far, the Cubs have placed two minor leaguers in the rankings – Willson Contreras grabs the top spot for catchers and Ian Happ was listed as the third best second base prospect in baseball.
The third base rankings are led by familiar top prospect Joey Gallo, who maintained his rookie status despite reaching the majors last year, and are primarily dominated by the American League.
The analysis of Candelario is simple, but complimentary. The Pipeline crew was impressed by his showing in his first dose of AA last year, as well as his stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League. Candelario, 22, is a switch-hitter who projects to hit for both power and average with the ability to play above-average third base for his entire career. According to MLB Pipeline, scouts love his soft hands and above average arm strength.
If it seems like Candelario has been in the Cubs’ system for an unusually long time, it’s because he kinda has. Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old way back in 2010, Candelario has spent 5+ years methodically working his way through the Cubs minor league system. Reaching AA Tennessee for the first time last year, Candelario took an enormous step forward. He slashed an impressive .291/.397/.462, while watching his walk rate (12.1%) overtake his strike out rate (11.5%).
Here is the list of every single player who has posted more walks than strikeouts over at least 180 plate appearances in his age 21 season (or younger) in the Southern League going back to 2006 (data from Fangraphs):
Michael Brantley (twice)
That is an impressive list, and serves to show how great Candelario was in 2015. There’s plenty more in Luke’s analysis that is worth reading, so make sure you check it out.
Candelario is probably one of the more underrated Cubs prospects, and I think he’ll have a big year in 2016 – a year that might start out in AA Tennessee, but should see a quick move to AAA Iowa. And once you make it to AAA, MLB is just around the corner.
For more on the MLB Pipeline list and the prospects therein, you can also watch this video: