Small sample sizes can cloud fantasy outlooks. Jeimer Candelario owned prospect status for years but languished after being traded to Detroit. Then things came together in 2020 resulting in a .297/.369/.503 slash line with seven home runs, 59 runs plus RBI and a stolen base over 52 contests spanning 206 plate appearances. Always an on-base threat during his development, the power displayed during the truncated season needs to be analyzed before declaring it can carry over.
Although he became a bit more aggressive, fantasy players accepted it with the power boost. Candelario's walk rate fell to 9.7 percent in 2020 while his strikeout percentage finished at 23.8 percent. Resulting surges in isolated power (.205) weighted on-base average (.373) ensued. Viewing his plate discipline, as can be expected, swinging strike percentage ticked up to 11.4 percent while his contact rate declined slightly to 74.6 percent with his Z-Contact (in the strike zone) remaining steady at 86.9 percent.
According to Statcast, Candelario recorded 136 batted ball events with 14 barrels (10.3 percent), an average exit velocity of 90.2 MPH and a 47.1 hard hit rate. In 2019, he only produced the same number of barrels but with 101 more events. His hard hit percentage rose by almost 15 percentage points as well. How much of these gains can be repeatable? This remains the pertinent question.
Delving into his expected statistics, some regression lies in the offing. Candelario finished with a .275 expected batting average, .466 expected slugging and .353 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). All below his actual numbers from 2020. A monstrous jump in line drive rate to a career high 35.3 percent appears difficult to occur over a full season of results.
Within his data, Candelario displayed progress with an increase of his zone swing percentage by almost eight percent but his contact in the zone remained stable. He cut his chase rate and contact percentage while seeing a slight uptick in swing percentage along with his whiff percent. How much of the batted ball gains he carries over determines his 2021 upside. Here's his swing and take chart courtesy of Statcast:
He thrived in the heart of the strike zone along with the chase and waste regions. As for his spray chart, keep in mind his switch hitting profile:
As a left-handed hitter he's more prone to pulling the ball which may lead to more shifts against him in 2021:
From the right side of the plate, he also pulls the ball but more to left-center and goes down the line to the opposite field but zero to right-center last season:
Things his backers can hang their hat on, Candelario improved his average exit velocity by two MPH and his maximum exit velocity rose to 110.8 MPH in 2020. Plus, his 94.8 MPH average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives insulates his power growth. Eight of his last 15 home runs rate as no-doubters (out of any major league park). How often he lifts his batted ball events determines his resulting home run totals.
Expanding his sample size further, here's his statistics from the second half of 2019 through the end of last year:
- Candelario 2H 2019-through-2020: 92 games, 40 runs, 9 HR, 45 RBI, stolen base; .251/.340/.418, 10.6 BB%, 23.1 K%, .167 ISO, .329 wOBA
It's imperative he continues to hit with a higher exit velocity to succeed. Noting the pending migration to the mean in batting average and slugging percent, his projection sets lean too far towards overcorrection based on poor results prior to 2020:
Monitor his spring results and batted data closely at the onset of the season. If Candelario continues producing like last year, he could hit .265-to-.275 with 20-plus home runs. However, it's not a slam dunk. Roster with eyes wide open.
THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen
ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski