Looks like the front office combo of “Thed” is back at it. The red-hot Chicago Cubs got even better in the wee hours of Monday morning. Despite losing their top prospect, they get a huge left-handed arm in Justin Wilson and veteran backstop in Alex Avila for their playoff run.
That’s the benefits of an elite farm system. The Cubs have former top prospects that already have World Series rings. They have also used some of baseball’s finest prospects to land the pieces they needed to get there.
They may have done it again at the deadline.
JEIMER CANDELARIO, IF
Let’s take a look at what our own John Sickels said about Candelario in the preseason.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Grade B-: Age 23, hit .283/.376/.464 between Double-A and Triple-A with 13 homers, 39 doubles, 70 walks, 99 strikeouts in 474 at-bats; looks blocked in Chicago but would make great trade bait as a switch-hitter with OBP ability, power potential, and above-average defense at third base; ready for a trial now but where? ETA: 2017.
Pretty spot on, huh?
Candelario was signed back in 2010 for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic. The 6-foot-1, 210 pound switch-hitter impressed in the Dominican Summer League at the age of 17, but struggled mightily with his first taste of full-season ball. He’s since put those struggles far behind him.
Talent has never been the issue for Candelario. He has been an elite prospect for a few seasons, and rose to the top of the Cubs system this year when Eloy Jimenez left town. As early as last season, I discussed how Candelario is a victim of circumstance.
While his bat is a big positive, his play in the field is where problems seem to arise. He is a solid third baseman, a bit error prone earlier in his career, but has settled in as a .960 to .970 fielder at the hot corner. He has a good enough arm to stick there as well, but lacks the speed and footwork to shift to middle infield — where Ian Happ is next in line — or outfield, where Eloy Jiminez eagerly awaits his turn. And he certainly will not be replacing Kris Bryant anytime soon.
Candelario was amid another fine season in Iowa. He was slashing.266/.361/.507 with an uptick in the power numbers. His 12 home runs were one shy of his career high and his 27 doubles were on pace to break his impressive 39 career-mark set last season. The most exciting part of Candelario’s hit tool is his continued ability to use all fields. His spray charts from 2016 and 2017 tell the same story, so it is no fluke.
Candelario, a switch-hitter, has a powerful, quick swing. With a defined leg kick, he launches into the ball, which thus far has resulted mainly in doubles. The home runs continue to mount each season, however, so the power is clearly there. Most of his power comes against righties as a left-handed hitter, where he’s blasted nine home runs and 20 doubles this season.
Normally a deadly eye for the strike zone, Candelario has seen a slight rise in his 2017 strikeout totals, over 20 percent for the first time in his career. Sometimes, with newfound power, comes a bit of aggressiveness that leads to more strikeouts, but I haven’t watch Candelario with enough consistency to make that final judgement. It’s passable in Candelario’s case, however, as he counters with his always high walk rate. This season he has walked 41 times in 330 plate appearances.
The biggest takeaway on Candelario is his work ethic. An average third baseman at best a few years back, he is now very capable of manning the position. Many seem to feel a switch to first is in his future, which further blocked his career path in Chicago. The Tigers got a very nice piece here.
ISAAC PAREDES, SS
The Cubs found Paredes in Mexico and signed him to just under a $1-million bonus before the 2016 season. The 5-foot-11, 175 pound right-hander played very well in the Arizona League at the age of 17, slashing .305/.359/.443 in his 2016 debut. He struggled when he got a late season jump to full-season ball.
The shortstop was slashing .264/.343/.401 at the time of the trade for South Bend in the Midwest League. He tapped into his power, belting 25 doubles and seven home runs. His power is almost all pull, as all seven of his home runs have gone over the left field wall. That said, he has a very advanced feel for the strike zone as an 18-year-old in full-season ball. He has struck out just 54 times in 380 plate appearances.
It’s easy to make assessments watching video and crunching the numbers, but I have seen Paredes in person much. There is an element of the game I am missing and for that, I referred to Cubs Insider and 2080 Baseball who always have solid insight on the Cubbies’ system. CI seems to feel Paredes could have surpassed Gleyber Torres as the system’s cream of the crop. That’s pretty lofty aspirations.
With just six stolen bases in his career, Paredes clearly lacks the speed often associated with up-the-middle players. That puts his career at shortstop in question, though all reports feel he has the arm to stick there.
Paredes has a thick frame and below-average speed, leading many scouts to think he may move to third base, second base, or even move behind the plate in the future. He will surprise you at shortstop, however. He makes up for his lack of speed with tremendous instincts and classic middle-infielder actions. His arm strength is above average to plus, and at the plate he is an aggressive hitter who attacks the baseball and has good feel for the barrel.
Paredes is a long way off, but has shown great power and control of the strike zone at a young age. He’s certainly a positive addition.