Last season, the Detroit Tigers finished at the bottom of the American League standings and tied for the worst record in the entire league, but this season, they are only three and a half games behind the division leading Cleveland Indians. While no one expects Detroit to surpass Cleveland and make the playoffs, the Tigers have some players that are contributing to keep pace.
Jeimer Candelario has been one of their best players and leads the team in home runs with 9. He was acquired from the Chicago Cubs last year and it looks like a really good return for Detroit. To get a sense of the type of player he is, let’s dive into some of his past numbers.
Candelario has always had a good eye for the strike zone. In the minor leagues, his walk rates averaged in the double digits except for that one blemish last year as he was transitioning to a new team. Overall, his strikeout rates are not crazy high and the power is starting to emerge. He already has surpassed his numbers from last year so let’s see if the plate discipline is any different.
He already looks like a much better player than he did last year and the biggest difference is his contact rates. He is hitting balls off the plate at over a 10% increase from 56.0% to 67.3%. Balls in the zone have also increased from 82.3% to 88.4%. Also, his swinging strike rate and swing percentage have decreased to 8.5% and 42.1% respectively, which indicates he is looking for his pitch to hit. These are great improvements and I’m interested to see how he’s hitting the ball.
From a year ago the profile looks almost identical except for the way he’s using the field and how hard he’s hitting the ball. He’s pulling the ball at a 48.9% rate and that’s a big reason for his home run surge. However, he has to be careful of teams defending against him with the shift. His hard contact is good at 36.0% and we love that he’s hitting the ball soft at only 18.0%. Statcast shows an xAVG of .238, down from his actual average of .270. His average exit velocity and launch angle are just okay at 87.7MPH and 12.7°. Maybe regression hits, but let’s see if the 24-year old can make the adjustments.
Jeimer Candelario is having a solid season so far and is a big reason the Tigers are where they are in the standings. He’s made improvements to his plate discipline and has also tapped into his power. He is still only playing in his first full season and we can expect teams to adjust to him. There are worse options out there and Detroit is decent at scoring runs making Candelario a great pickup.