DETROIT – Jeimer Candelario is supposed to be the Detroit Tigers' third baseman of the future, but the first two months of the season have shown some alarming trends.
The Tigers were forced to demote the struggling Candelario after Wednesday's game, sending him to Triple-A Toledo to rediscover his swing.
Through 38 games, Candelario is hitting .192 with a terrible .573 OPS and 46 strikeouts. He only has six doubles and two home runs.
A matchup with Justin Verlander is the last thing a player in a deep slump needs, and that was predictably difficult for Candelario, who went 0-4 with two strikeouts. He's now 2-35 over his last nine games and has seen his OPS fall nearly 100 points.
Candelario is second on the team in walks, but he's striking out way too often for those to even be considered a positive.
When the Tigers acquired Candelario in the Justin Wilson trade with the Chicago Cubs in 2017, he looked like an important piece of the team's rebuild. He posted an .874 OPS in the final 27 games of that season with a good walk rate and decent extra-base power.
Last year, he took a step back, striking out 160 times and struggling to get on base. He was hitting for power, though, with 19 home runs and 28 doubles, and dealing with injuries, so there was some hope he could turn it around.
But instead of putting both his extra-base power and on-base skills together this season, neither has returned in the first quarter of the year. The Tigers now hope Candelario can have a Max Scherzer-esque epiphany in the minor leagues and carry that confidence back to Detroit.
There are very few long-term offensive answers in the Tigers' organization to go with their wealth of pitching talent. If they don't get some good bats in the system soon, they risk this rebuild culminating in an MLB roster that has a great pitching staff but can't hit, and that's not a World Series formula.
Rebuilds are difficult because the offense, starting pitching and bullpen all have to become World Series caliber within the same window. Right now, the Tigers only have a third of that formula in place, and those pitchers aren't far away from being MLB ready.
Candelario was expected to be one of the everyday players who could contribute when the Tigers are ready to compete again. If he's not a middle-of-the-order bat, the Tigers have another hole to fill.
The Tigers don't care about winning games this season, but Candelario's development is very important. He'll be a player to keep an eye on in Triple-A, and especially when he returns to the MLB roster.