Jeimer Candelario watched his first inning drive off Cincinnati’s Tyler Mahle clear the left field wall at Great American Ballpark on Wednesday and must have reveled in the feeling of rounding the bases once again. It had been a while since he was rewarded for a positive at-bat.
It has been miserable June for Candelario, to say the least. Battling the everyday grind that rears its ugly head about this time every season has taken its toll of the rookie third baseman. The Tigers are 75 games into the season and about a week away from the half-way point. The days are getting hotter and the schedule begins to consume you. It’s the same for every player, rookie or veteran.
While Candelario’s numbers have pulled back from his April and May contributions, the eye test tells you that it’s only a matter of time before he gets rolling again. Despite the current skid, Candelario has not been overmatched. While his average has suffered this month, he remains a tough out. Most pitchers will tell you that he has not given away any at-bats. Candelario has a unique ability to grate on a pitcher’s nerves. When he walks to the plate, you might want to pack a lunch because he’ll be there a while.
Candelario has had five plate appearances of at least ten pitches this year, the most in the major leagues. He is averaging 4.24 pitches per plate appearance this year, the most of any Tigers hitter. In fact, Candelario has seen 1,161 pitches which are 33 more pitches than the next closest Tiger, Nicholas Castellanos, even though Castellanos has played in ten more games and has 40 more plate appearances.
The point here is that while Candelario is working through his June gloom, he continues to provide good at-bats on a nightly basis. This past week is a great example. He has walked eight times in his last six games and currently leads the club with 33 walks. His on-base percentage is also a healthy .358, tops on the ballclub.
A rebound for Candelario sooner rather than later is a must for the Tigers if they hope to continue their competitive start. With Miguel Cabrera lost for the year with a ruptured biceps tendon and Victor Martinez scuffling through his final season as a Tiger, Candelario’s presence in the two-spot in the lineup becomes critical.
Candelario was actually creating some all-star buzz earlier this year after hitting eight home runs in the first two months. That talk has cooled because of his chilly June, but the fact remains that he is still a young hitter with tremendous upside. Whether or not it happens this year, an all-star bid seems likely in his future.
For now, though, the Tigers continue to watch the development of one of the cornerstones to their future. He is exactly what the Tigers hoped he would be when they acquired him from the Chicago Cubs last season in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila deal in July.
Rebuilding teams need players like Candelario. Solid, upside talents with a ceiling that has yet to be reached.