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The 2017 Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: Described by Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports as “an insightful and often contrarian viewpoint to prospect rankings,” The 2017 Prospect Digest Handbook is now on sale! Check it out here! 

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1. Eloy Jimenez, LF/RF                                                  
Born: 11/27/96 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Zoilo Almonte, Anthony Santander, Jem Argenal, Jorge Bonifacio, Oscar Rojas
Height: 6-4 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 164 8 2 3 0.227 0.268 0.367 0.140 6.10% 19.50% 80
2015 18 A- 250 10 0 7 0.284 0.328 0.418 0.134 6.00% 17.20% 113
2016 19 A 464 40 3 14 0.329 0.369 0.532 0.204 5.40% 20.30% 162

Background: Signed to a hefty $2.8 million at 16-years-old – what were you doing at that age? – Jimenez’s production erupted during his first full stint in the Midwest League last year. After a lackluster showing as a 17-year-old in the Arizona Summer League during his professional debut three years ago, though there were some very favorable indications of future success, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound teenager adapted nicely in short-season ball in 2015. In 57 games with Eugene, Jimenez batted .284/.328/.418 with 10 doubles, seven homeruns, and three stolen bases while topping the league average mark by 13%, trailing only Kevin Padlo as the most lethal 18-year-old bat in the league. And he was able to carry – and build upon – that momentum. As one of only 21 qualified players in any Low Class A league in 2016, Jimenez slugged an impressive .329/.369/.532 with a whopping 40 doubles, three triples, 14 homeruns, and eight stolen bases. What’s the most impressive fact about his breakout? His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 62%.

Projection: Just how good was Jimenez last season? Well, consider the following:

  • Since 2006, there have been only three other teenagers to post a wRC+ of at least 160 in a season in Low Class A: Joey Gallo, Jaff Decker, and Giancarlo Stanton.
  • Again, since 2006, there have been only four other teenager to slug 40 or more doubles in a season in Low Class A: Ryan McMahon, Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, and Jay Bruce. And the first three players, by the way, played in one of the minors’ friendliest hitting environments.

The fact that Jimenez is the only member of both groups should say enough about his offensive abilities.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote about him in last year’s book when I ranked him as the club’s ninth best prospect:

“Again, here’s some more context: only one other 18-year-old slugged more short-season dingers than Jimenez: Colorado’s Kevin Padlo, with 10. Jimenez has massive, massive power potential – something that his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame only hints at. Solid-eye with some room to grow as he familiarizes himself with more advanced pitching. He also has strong contact rates, another encouraging sign for a budding power-hitter.”

Well, the power still has plenty of room for growth – as evidenced by his 57 extra-base hits. He’s a future star. Without a doubt.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

2. Ian Happ, 2B/OF                                               
Born: 08/12/94 Age: 23 Bats: B Top CALs: Arismendy Alcantara, Chris Bostick, Marc Wik, Jonathan Galvez, Adolfo Gonzalez
Height: 6-0 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 20 A 165 9 3 5 0.241 0.315 0.448 0.207 10.30% 23.60% 118
2016 21 A+ 293 16 3 7 0.296 0.410 0.475 0.179 16.40% 23.50% 147
2016 21 AA 274 14 0 8 0.262 0.318 0.415 0.153 7.30% 21.90% 111

Background: How’s this for an impressive track record? Here’s the Cubs’ first round picks since 2013: Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ.  It took Bryant all of two years to make it up to the big leagues and establish himself as a perennial MVP candidate. Schwarber, the former Indiana product, spent parts of two seasons in the minors before establishing himself as a legitimate middle-of-the-lineup thumper. And now Happ, who’s been on the “slow” development path since his selection as the ninth overall pick in 2015, has made it up to Class AA within his first two seasons. Happ, a former University of Cincinnati standout who finished his three-year collegiate career with a.338/.463/.552 triple-slash line, blew through his debut in short-season ball and Low Class A (.259/.356/.466) and looked unstoppable during the first half of 2016 in the Carolina League (.296/.410/.475). But his stick cooled dramatically when he got the nod to head to Class AA. In 65 games with the Tennessee Smokies, he batted a mediocre .262/.318/.415 with 14 doubles and eight homeruns. Overall, the second baseman/outfielder is sporting a .272/.362/.452 triple-slash line.

Projection: So here’s what I wrote about Happ prior to the 2015 draft:

“A bit of an odd prospect because he really doesn’t have a set position once he transitions to the pro level. He could easily find himself at a corner outfield spot – where the bat doesn’t play extraordinarily well – [or] third base, where it has a chance to be league average for the position, or second base, a potential reincarnation of the Indians’ Jason Kipnis.

Offensively speaking, Happ has a lengthy track record of success with his time in a Bearcats’ uniform as well as – and more importantly – in the Cape Cod Summer League. He has an elite eye at the plate – he’s walked in nearly 18% of his career plate appearances (as of May 6th) – and enough pop to slug 25 doubles and 10 homeruns in a pro season. Happ’s decline in stolen base frequency and success are the only red flags to speak of during his final collegiate season.

He’s in the mold of a Jason Kipnis/Dustin Ackley-type player – solid league-average offensive performers. He’s a typical Oakland A’s-type prospect – college bat with some defensive versatility – but likely won’t be around when the franchise goes on the clock with the 20th pick.”

Well, it still rings true on all accounts. He’s bounced around between second base and all three outfielder positions. His walk rates are impeccable. The power is still a solid average, if not slightly better, skill. Look for him to put up some .280/.340/.430-type lines in the coming years for the Cubs.

Defensively speaking, according to Clay Davenport’s metrics, Happ looks like a solid defender at second base and in the outfield – just another positive.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

3. Albert Almora Jr., CF                         
Born: 04/16/94 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Jae-Hoon Ha, Teodoro Martinez, Tyrone Taylor, Willie Cabrera, Jose Martinez
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 272 17 4 3 0.329 0.376 0.466 0.137 6.30% 11.00% 137
2014 20 A+ 385 20 2 7 0.283 0.306 0.406 0.123 3.10% 11.90% 100
2015 21 AA 451 26 4 6 0.272 0.327 0.400 0.128 7.10% 10.40% 105
2016 22 AAA 336 18 3 4 0.303 0.317 0.416 0.113 2.70% 13.10% 92

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Among all Pacific Coast League hitters with 330 trips to the plate last season, Almora Jr.’s walk rate, 2.7%, was the worst mark. Fun Fact Part II: Among all Class AAA bats last season, Almora Jr.’s walk rate was the third worst, topping only Carlos Triunfel and J.P. Arcencibia. Anyway, the former 2012 first round pick, sixth overall, appeared in 80 games with Iowa last season, hitting a league average-ish .303/.317/.416 with 18 doubles, three triples, and four homeruns; he also swiped 10 bags in 13 total attempts. Almora also spent 47 games with the Cubs as well, hitting .277/.308/.455 with nine doubles, one triple, and a dinger.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him when I ranked him as the system’s top prospect in last year’s book:

“Almora’s another one of these guys where I have one very distinct – and prominent – thought:

He’s a victim of his own hype, sort of the Cubs’ version of Brandon Nimmo. While Almora brings enough to the kitchen table, it’s very possible that his defensive contributions will outweigh his offensive production. Not necessarily bad by any stretch of the means, but he’s been hyped for so long, ad nauseam, that’s he’s going to have trouble living up to the lofty expectations.

With that being said, he can fill out the back of a baseball card well enough – plenty of doubles, a handful of triples, 10 homeruns, and double-digit stolen bases. As a potential big league hitter he’ll hover around the league average, but it’s his defense that will push him over 3.0-win a year.”  

 Well, fast forward a year and the same thing could be said about the talented outfielder. He’s going to the beneficiary of playing in arguably the best lineup in baseball, so that should help his case quite a bit.

For what it’s worth, I did a quick little study. Here’s a list of players who posted a walk rate under 3.1% before the age of 23 in Class AAA (minimum 300 plate appearances): Albert Almora Jr., Dayan Viciedo, and Hanser Alberto. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of hope moving forward, does it?

Ceiling: 2.5 to 3.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

4. Dylan Cease, RHP                                            
Born: 12/28/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs:  Dan McDaniel, Akeel Morris, Jhondaniel Medina, Dauri Moreta, Alex Colome
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2016 20 A- 44.2 2 0 2.22 2.92 13.30 5.04 36.30% 13.70% 0.20 76.10%

Background: We’ve seen a lot of players go early that have either (A) recently underwent Tommy John surgery or (B) were eventually going to need the all-too-common procedure. Obviously, some of the more memorable ones include: Brady Aiken (when the Tribe grabbed in two years ago), Lucas Giolito, Erick Fedde, Jeff Hoffman, and Cal Quantrill, etc. One of the guys that’s often overlooked – at least by casual fans not found in Wrigley – is Cease, who (A) was widely regarded as one of the top prep arms in the 2014 draft class, (B) would require Tommy John surgery immediately following the draft, and (C) signed for a hefty $1.5 million bonus as a sixth round pick in 2014, which was greater than four first rounders got that year.

Cease, a well-built right-hander out of Milton, Georgia, didn’t make his professional debut until the end of June two years ago, but finished that campaign with a decent 25-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24.0 innings of work. The club bumped him from the Arizona Summer League to Eugene in the Northwest League last season. And, well, let’s just say that numbers are pretty damn impressive: 36.3% K%, 13.3 K/9, 2.22 ERA, and a 2.92 FIP. The only problem, though it’s far from a concern or red flag, is his control issues (13.7% BB%, 5.04 BB/9).

Projection: Big, big time fastball with the strikeout percentage to match, if Cease can reign in his control issues there’s no limiting his potential as a frontline, top-end starter. And, boy, did he end last season on a high note: he twirled a five-inning, one hit, no walk, 10-strikeout performance against the Hillsboro Hops on his final start of the season. Need more evidence of his budding dominance? Consider this: over his final 21.0 innings he posted 0.43 ERA, fanned 39 K, and walked just 10. He could be the single biggest riser in all of the minor leagues next year. Yes, he’s going to be that good.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

5. Trevor Clifton, RHP                                            
Born: 05/11/95 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs:  Yeiper Castillo, Luke Jackson, Greg Harris, Jeff Lyman, David Baker
Height: 6-1 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 19 A- 61.0 4 2 3.69 4.31 7.97 4.43 20.20% 11.20% 0.44 70.60%
2015 20 A 108.2 8 10 3.98 3.94 8.53 3.89 22.30% 10.20% 0.58 67.50%
2016 21 A+ 119.0 7 7 2.72 3.05 9.76 3.10 26.20% 8.30% 0.30 74.10%

Background: A late round pick in the 2013 draft, Clifton, nonetheless, inked a deal with the Cubbies with a rather hefty signing bonus – $375,000. Not bad for a guy who was taken with the 348th overall pick. And it looks like the deal is another win for baseball’s savviest of front offices. The hard-throwing right-hander had a mediocre and uninspiring year in the Northwest League in 2014, posting a 4.31 FIP while averaging less than eight punch outs and nearly 4.5 walks every nine innings. But he began to take some important strides the following year as both his strikeout and walk numbers perked up a bit (8.53 K/9 and 3.89 BB/9). And that momentum definitely carried into last year as well as he set career bests in innings (119.0), K-rate (9.76), K% (26.2%), BB-rate (3.10), BB% (8.3%), K-BB% (17.9%), and FIP (3.05).

Projection: I was incredibly high on Clifton in last year’s book, ranking him as the club’s #5 prospect (#105 in all of baseball), and writing:

“Here’s the thing about long shots, or in this case late round over-slot signings – sometimes they pay off. And less than 200 innings under his professional belt, Clifton’s making an awful lot of noise as an up-and-comer in the Chicago system; so much so, in fact, that he could have as much potential as any hurler in the organization’s farm system. His strikeout rate is creeping up while he’s slowly improving his control/command. He’s big and projectable – with plenty of gas left in the projection tank. And only two other qualified starters under the age of 21 in the Midwest League last season missed more bats (Justus Sheffield and Grant Holmes, a pair of high round draft picks). Clifton has a chance to be an impact arm at the big league level. Watch out.”

If you haven’t jumped on the Clifton Bandwagon, you better do it now. And here’s why:

  • No qualified pitcher in High Class A under the age of 22 bested his 26.2% K%.
  • The last time a pitcher met that criteria was in 2014 when Tyler Glasnow fanned 31.6% of the hitters he faced.
  • And since 2006 there have been eight pitchers to accomplish this feat: Glasnow, Trevor May, Julio Rodriguez, Zack Wheeler, Matt Moore, Jake McGee, and Franklin Morales.

It’s awfully difficult projecting when (or if) a pitcher will take that next step up toward legitimate ace-dom, but Clifton could be approaching that point quickly.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

6. Mark Zagunis, LF/RF                              
Born: 02/05/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Jones, Nate Tenbrink, Jackie Bradley Jr, Lucas Duda, Blake Tekotte
Height: 6-0 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 191 9 2 2 0.299 0.429 0.422 0.123 16.20% 16.20% 145
2015 22 A+ 512 24 5 8 0.271 0.406 0.412 0.140 15.60% 16.80% 146
2016 23 AA 211 13 1 4 0.302 0.408 0.453 0.151 14.20% 17.10% 154
2016 23 AAA 211 12 4 6 0.274 0.360 0.486 0.212 10.40% 19.90% 123

Background: Oh, you know, just the typical third-round-catcher-turned-professional-hitting-machine-outfielder. One just has to hand it to the Cubs for being so…damn…good at developing minor league hitting. Zagunis, who left Virginia Tech with an aggregate .338/.430/.495 triple-slash line, hasn’t stopped hitting in his three-year professional career. First, he battered the Northwest League to the tune of .299/.429/.422 and completely overwhelmed the Midwest League pitching during a brief 14-game promotion. Then in 2015 he torched the High Class A competition (146 wRC+) before blowing through Class AA (154 wRC+) and Class AAA (123 wRC+) last year. At this point if you have a son talented enough to get paid to hit a baseball, you want him in the Cubs organization, right?

Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the former collegiate backstop prior to the 2014 draft:

“English Field [Virginia Tech’s home park] tends to inflate offensive numbers, but the tools are strong across the board. Solid-average power, above-average hit tool, good speed for a catcher, strong eye at the plate, and solid contact skills. The lone red flag – and it’s pretty glaring at this point – is his inability to control the [running] game. He has nabbed just 20% of would-be base stealer [so far in 2014].

His overall skillset is fairly similar to Zane Evans, the Georgia Tech backstop taken in the fourth round last year by the Royals, though Zagunis has a higher ceiling.

Overall, the Hokie catcher looks like a solid bet to develop into a league average everyday player with a peak around .270/.340/.400 with double-digit homeruns and stolen bases.”

 And here’s what I continued to write in last year’s book:

“The plate discipline has proven to be an elite skill; he’s walked in over 15% of his career plate appearances. The power is solid-average, as is the hit tool. And the club wisely moved him away from behind the plate. Simply put, Zagunis is one of the better prospects you’ve never heard about. I could easily see him carving out a 10-year career with average offensive production north of 100 wRC+.”

At this point, I feel like I’m just going to continue to write the same thing over. And over. And over. And over. Zagunis looks like a very solid, safe, league average starter – though I’m assuming that won’t be coming in the Cubs’ crowded outfield.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

7. Oscar De La Cruz, RHP                           
Born: 03/04/95 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs:  Pedro Payano, Domingo German, Carlos Hernandez, Jose Guzman, Ronny Morla
Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 19 R 75.0 8 1 1.80 2.89 7.68 2.28 21.00% 6.20% 0.24 71.80%
2015 20 A- 73.0 6 3 2.84 3.18 9.00 2.10 25.20% 5.90% 0.49 70.00%
2016 21 A 27.2 1 2 3.25 2.14 11.39 2.60 31.00% 7.10% 0.00 69.70%

Background: Rarely do we see a prospect spend a significant amount of time in the Dominican Summer League at the age of 19 and eventually develop into a legitimate prospect. Sure, it happens. But it’s few-and-far between. Enter: Oscar De La Cruz, who is certainly in the running for most intriguing power arm in the system. Originally signed as a position player, De La Cruz got a late start to the mound, throwing his first meaningful pitch as an 18-year-old in the DSL in 2013 – which lasted all of 11.0 innings. The club wisely opted to keep in the foreign rookie league the following year. And let’s just say the numbers sparkled – 75.0 IP, 64 K, 19 BB, and a 1.80 ERA. But, again, it’s the DSL – land of bloated production from both hitters and pitchers. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander got his first taste of action stateside two years ago. And he didn’t disappoint. In 13 starts with the Eugene Emeralds, De La Cruz posted a promising 73-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio – thusly putting him on my prospect radar. In fact, I ranked him as one of the top breakout prospects entering the year. Then…his elbow flared up, an injury that knocked him out of action until the middle of July. Once he returned, De La Cruz picked up right where he left off. After a tune-up start in the Arizona Rookie League, De La Cruz fanned 14 and walked just two in two more starts with the Emeralds before getting bumped up to South Bend for another six games.

Projection: De La Cruz’s August 17th disaster against the Bowling Green Hot Rods tends to warp his overall production line. So let’s take that one out the equation. And here are his numbers in Low Class A: 24.2 IP, 31 K, 7 BB, and a 1.50 ERA.

Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“An absolute force to be reckoned with at various points last season. De La Cruz twirled a six-inning, nine punch out, zero walk performance against the Hillsboro Hops in early July and had an even better showing in late August; he tossed a season-high seven innings against the Spokane Indians, fanning 13, walking one, and giving up one single solitary base knock. Again, like Justin Steele and Carson Sands, the sample size is incredibly limited, but there’s an awful lot to like here.”

Well, the sample size is still incredibly limited, but he has continued to sparkle at various points. With that being said, I’m once again declaring him as one of the top breakout prospects for 2017.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

8. Wladimir Galindo, 3B                 
Born: 11/06/96 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Zachary Green, Alex Jackson, Reggie Golden, Tyler Kolodny, Patrick Leonard
Height: 6-3 Weight: 210 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 19 A- 282 19 4 9 0.243 0.337 0.462 0.219 11.70% 28.70% 122

Background: Signed as part of the same international class that added Eloy Jimenez and former top prospect – and current Yankee – Gleyber Torres to the system, Galindo, nonetheless, has started to turn some heads after a severe bought of wrist inflammation limited his 2015 season to just 19 games in the Arizona Summer League. Galindo, who already stands a hulking 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, made his professional debut in the Venezuelan Summer League three years ago, hitting an impressive .278/.356/.462 en route to topping the (bloated) league’s offensive average by 41%. And the big third baseman looked like he was poised for a massive coming out party when the club bumped him up to the stateside rookie league the following year, slugging .358/.400/.522 with nine extra-base hits in 19 games before the wrist flared up. Despite missing the majority of the previous year, the Cubs aggressively pushed the Venezuelan-born Galindo up to the Northwest league last season where he would bat .243/.337/.462 with 19 doubles, four triples, nine homeruns, and a trio of stolen bases.

Projection: A couple interesting things to note here.

  1. Galindo finished with the second most homeruns in the Northwest League with nine, trailing only Gio Brusa who was three years his senior.
  2. The month of July really deflated his overall production. Ignoring that month Galindo batted .266/.359/.456.
  3. And while his 28% punch out rate is encroaching on red flag territory, he showed steady progress as he whiffed just 23.4% over his final 34 contests.

Galindo’s raw power is off the charts with the potential to become an annual 25- to 30-homer threat. He also walked a helluva lot last season too (11.7%). And if he can prove that the strikeout rate in the second half of 2016 is legit, he could be one of the biggest risers in 2016. Defensively…don’t expect him to stick at the hot corner.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

9. Justin Steele, LHP                                   
Born: 07/11/95 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs:  Steve Johnson, Luis Morel, Yeiper Castillo, Nik Turley, Dustin Antolin
Height: 6-2 Weight: 195 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 19 A- 40.2 3 1 2.66 2.84 8.41 3.32 21.70% 8.60% 0.00 54.70%
2016 20 A 77.1 5 7 5.00 3.84 8.84 4.54 21.10% 10.80% 0.35 61.10%

Background: One of the players on my Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2016 in last year’s book, Steele…didn’t. Now that’s not to say he had a down year, or even that he was a disappointment, because he wasn’t. I just predicted the time of his breakout incorrectly. But it’s coming. After a dominant debut in the rookie leagues three years, the Man O’ Steele looked just as promising in the Northwest League the following year (8.41 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, and a 2.84 FIP) – hence, my eager optimism. What followed was a season that was better than his numbers suggest. It just wasn’t “breakout material.”

In a shortened season that spanned 19 starts, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound southpaw fanned 21.1% and walked 10.8% of the hitters he faced. His Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, was more than a run lower than his actual ERA (3.84 vs. 5.00).

Projection: Digging deeper into the numbers, Steele’s season gets…weirder. He had one game where he fanned 10 in six innings, had eight total appearances where he allowed one or zero earned runs, and three others that lasted less than two innings where he allowed 19 earned runs. If we ignore those poor starts his ERA drops to an impressive 2.96. His control is still a little wobbly, but 20-year-old lefties that average about a punch out per inning in the Midwest League are noteworthy.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

10. Jeimer Candelario, 3B                              
Born: 11/24/93 Age: 23 Bats: B Top CALs: Andy Laroche, Nick Weglarz, Adrian Cardenas, Cheslor Cuthbert, Michael Conforto
Height: 6-1 Weight: 210 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 572 35 1 11 0.256 0.346 0.396 0.140 11.90% 15.40% 112
2014 20 A 263 19 3 6 0.250 0.300 0.426 0.176 6.80% 17.10% 105
2014 20 A+ 244 10 2 5 0.193 0.275 0.326 0.133 9.40% 18.00% 73
2015 21 A+ 343 25 3 5 0.270 0.318 0.415 0.145 5.80% 18.10% 113
2015 21 AA 182 10 1 5 0.291 0.379 0.462 0.171 12.10% 11.50% 140
2016 22 AA 244 17 1 4 0.219 0.324 0.367 0.148 13.10% 18.90% 104
2016 22 AAA 309 22 3 9 0.333 0.417 0.542 0.208 12.30% 17.20% 155

Background: Bizarre. There’s really no other way to describe The Candy Man’s 2016 other than that. Just. Bizarre. Candelario’s always been a steady performer with the bat in his hands throughout his six-year career, but he opened up last season in a funk. Hell, it was the funk of all funks. He went 16-for-88 in his first 25 games – which included only two multi-hit contests – and was staring down the barrel of a .182/.330/.307 triple-slash line. He would then hit .301/.369/.462 over his next 23 games, and finished out his time in Class AA with a 2-for-29 stretch. In all, he would hover around the league average offensive production en route to hitting .219/.324/.367. But then… The front office brass bumped him up to the Pacific Coast League and…viola!…Candelario looks like the second coming of Kris Bryant, slugging .333/.417/.542 with 22 doubles, three triples, and nine homeruns while posting a 155 wRC+ mark. Just. Weird.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“The skill that made Candelario so damn promising as a teenager in the Midwest League finally returned during his stint in Class AA last season: he started working the count more often, which in turn pushed his walk rate north of 10%. Candelario has solid-average power, strong contact rates, and granny-like speed. He’s a fringy big league regular, though his odds are much better than they were this time last year.”

And even after his “breakout” showing with Iowa in the second half last year, I’m still bearish on Candelario’s stock.

Why?

Well, first off, on the positive side: his walk rate, which exploded in Class AA in 2015, continued to hold firm. Good. Hell, great. So why am I not buying into his production?

#1: It’s the PCL. Numbers are inflated in the PCL.

#2: his .383 BABIP.

When’s the last time he posted a BABIP above .327? Glad you asked. It was in 2011. In the Dominican Summer League. I still think he’s a fringy big league regular. And his odds…well…they were about the same as they were last year.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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