Corner Infielder Jeimer Candelario - WPA: +2.1
A lot of fans want the Pirates to go after Rhys Hoskins to cover first base. While I’d welcome Hoskins with open arms, here’s a fact about Jeimer Candelario, another first base capable player on the market: Candelario’s WPA of +2.1 in 2023 would have been the single best total in any of Hoskins’ seasons in the big leagues.
Candelario rebounded after a rough 2022 season to hit .251/.336/.471 with a .346 wOBA, and 117 wRC+. The corner infielder had the 28th highest isolated slugging percentage in the league last year at .220. That surpasses Cody Bellinger, Julio Rodriguez, Bryce Harper, and Francisco Lindor. On top of that, he also had an above average 9% walk rate and 22% strikeout rate.
His third base defense was fine with -5 DRS, but +2 OAA. Candelario has mostly played third throughout his career, but has 663.2 innings at first base. He also spent the later half of the 2023 season at both infield corners for the Chicago Cubs. Like his third base defense, he can definitely handle the positon with +2 DRS and -2 OAA throughout his career.
Jose Ramirez led all third basemen in WPA. But Candelario was second. He was one of just 34 batters last year to provide at least +2 WPA in 300+ plate appearances. He contributed more to his team’s chances of winning more than Austin Riley, Rafael Devers, and Isaac Parades, just to name some of the best 3Bs in the game.
The only thing I’d be concerned about is his underlying metrics. Candelario only had a .319 xwOBA, .405 xSLG percentage, and was below average in exit velocity, hard hit rate, and hard hit rate. While Candelario has never had massive raw power, his expected numbers are low, at least for him. Of course, he could outperform them, or rebound next season. Afterall, he had a .356 xwOBA for two straight seasons in 2020-2021. Still, it is something to keep in the back of your head.