Tigers prospect Candelario already showing promise

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Toronto — Whether it’s a fan sitting on a game-night sofa, or a manager standing in his team’s dugout, what one sees is promise.

It’s a loaded word: promise. But in slowly, steadily introducing Jeimer Candelario to third base, the Tigers are carrying through on scouting reports and talent that underscored Candelario’s  that word again  promise and led the Tigers to trade for him in July.

Candelario was to start Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre after a happy five-game start for the Tigers in which he was batting .389.

“He looks good now,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. “The most impressive thing is his maturity. He doesn’t seem to get rattled in big situations.”

Candelario, a switch-hitter, became Tigers roster property when he and prospect shortstop Isaac Paredes were dealt to the Tigers in a deadline deal for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila.

He is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, with more of a running-back build: thick and well-contoured. He was born in New York, spent most of his youth in the Dominican Republic, and understood as soon as July’s deal was announced that the Tigers had plans for him.

“They said this would be a good place,” he recalled, hearing various baseball people, from the Cubs and elsewhere, explain to him at the time of the deal that Detroit would be a fine place for a 23-year-old natural third baseman who was hoping to play big-league baseball  now. “They all said the future was going to be good for me.”

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Tigers scouts had been inspecting Candelario well before July’s trade. They liked his swing  short and quick to the ball. They liked that he had extra-base power so vital for a third baseman.

They liked how he set up at third. His range was fine. His throwing arm was big-league.

“Good wrists and hands,” Ausmus said Friday, speaking of Candelario’s swing, and his work at third. “He looks comfortable there.

“And his bat-head speed is good.”

It’s common in baseball for hitters to be naturally grooved for one side of the plate, and, perhaps later in their baseball life, to decide switch-hitting might be an edge.

Candelario was into the left- and right-handed flips early. His dad, Rogelio, a good baseball player in his own right, had him hitting both ways as soon as Jeimer (pronounced: JAY-mer) first picked up a bat.

“Yeah, I enjoy it,” said Candelario, who during his 2017 Triple A season with the Cubs, batted 56 points better (.278) in average against right-handed pitching than against left-handers (.222). His OPS batting from the plate’s left side was .888, and .796 from the right.

“Been doing it since I was a little kid,” he said as he got ready for an early evening of left-handed at-bats against Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman.

That goes also for third base. It’s a position the Tigers were looking to remodel after they determined Nick Castellanos’ defense no longer could be absorbed. Castellanos is now playing right field and was to get his first big-league start there Friday.

Candelario says third base’s kick comes from its hot-corner heritage.

“The reaction,” he said. “Cutting the ball off. Throwing it to the first baseman’s chest.”

That, he said with a nod, is what a big-leaguer calls gratifying.

The Tigers by no means are certain Candelario will be at third on Opening Day 2018. He remains young. Unproven. Impossible to designate, yet, as an everyday answer when big-league pitchers can chew up a young player only a few days removed from Triple A.

But, again, the skill set is clear to his Tigers bosses, even at this stage. Candelario has a bundle of  yes  promise.


Twitter: @Lynn_Henning