MESA, Ariz. – Third base prospect Jeimer Candelario, whose breakout 2015 minor-league and fall-league seasons caught the attention of officials throughout the organization, is starting to do the same this spring.
But how far can it get him, with Kris Bryant, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, locked in at third for the Cubs for maybe another six years? It’s not like he’s going to get around that by switching to first base.
As the Cubs’ core becomes established, Candelario won’t be alone with that potential dilemma, assuming the Cubs’ farm system hums along as planned.
“We all like him. It’s no big secret,” said manager Joe Maddon. “Sometimes you look at a position and you say that’s really a thick position; when does this guy get a chance to play? And then you find out way too soon. So you just keep it rolling, keep moving him forward.”
Candelario, a switch-hitter in the starting lineup for the fourth straight game Saturday, moved forward – mostly – Saturday with an impressive first-inning at-bat for a walk, a double the opposite-way to left in the third and a single to center in the fourth against the White Sox.
He also committed two errors at third – uncharacteristic by all accounts from player development staff.
“Bad things are going to happen in the game. I’ve just got to keep working hard,” said Candelario, who likely will open the season at AAA Iowa. “When you play hard good things are going to happen.”
Ranked among the Cubs’ top 10 prospects by several outlets including Baseball America and Athlon Sports, Candelario seems more concerned with making an impression in his first big-league camp than wondering where he might fit in the big leagues.
“When they give me an opportunity, I’ve just got to take advantage and do the best that I can to help the team win and learn – keep learning,” he said. “I’ve got to work hard and dominate wherever I’m going to be in the season, with whatever team.”
Said Maddon: “Your depth’s always going to be challenged. The big thing with a guy like him is to keep him working, that hopefully it plays out the way you think it’s going to be, get him ready and then see what happens at that point.”
Notes: Left-fielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber, who left Thursday’s game with a sore knee, fared well putting the knee through strenuous running and resistance drills Saturday and Maddon said he could be ready to return to action Sunday. … Outfielder Matt Murton, who had an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago Saturday, said he took swings at close to 100 percent force Saturday for the first time since the surgery. He said if he keeps up the pace of his progress, he expects to be ready for a game within a week. …Setup ace Pedro Strop is scheduled for his inning of Cactus League work Sunday against Oakland. He’s the last of the projected bullpen guys to get in a game this spring – part of a plan to ease his workload and keep him strong into the season after leading the team with 76 appearances last year.