Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: Jeimer Candelario debuts soon, Sergio Alcantara thriving

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
| Detroit Free Press

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As if Detroit Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario didn’t do enough in the 2020 season, he’s back for more baseball.

Candelario was added to the active roster for Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League on Monday. He is expected to make his debut this week.

In November, the 27-year-old was named 2020 Tiger of the Year. To secure the award, Candelario finished last season with a .297 batting average, 11 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 29 RBIs in 52 games.

Last week: Third baseman Isaac Paredes still raking, right-hander Drew Carlton solid

It is unclear if Candelario will play third base or first base for Toros del Este, but the ballclub has him listed as a third baseman for now. In 2020, Candelario played 43 of his 52 games at first base, filling in for C.J. Cron, after he sustained a season-ending knee injury

“If the Tigers tell me I’m going to play third base, I’m going to play third base over there in the Dominican,” Candelario said in November. “If the Tigers tell me I’m going to play first base, (then) I’m going to play first base in the Dominican. I just got to listen to what they’re going to tell me and go from there.”

READ MORE: What to expect from Tigers as MLB’s 2020 winter meetings begin

During last year’s Dominican Winter League, Candelario hit .244 with one homer and 14 RBIs in 23 games. In the playoffs, he was named the league’s championship series MVP with a .357 average and two home runs. Because of Candelario’s efforts, Toros del Este advanced to the 62nd Caribbean Series and — for the first time in team history — won the tournament.

Candelario is teammates with free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig, who joined Toros del Este on Monday, as well. Puig, 30, did not play in the 2020 season, but he has a .277 batting average, 132 homers and 415 RBIs in 861 games across seven seasons in MLB.

Left-handed reliever Gregory Soto will reportedly debut Wednesday for Águilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Winter League. He had a 4.30 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 23 innings last season.

[ Tigers’ prospects in Dominican instructional league: Full roster, evaluations ]

Alcantara shines

Infielder Sergio Alcantara got his first taste of the majors in 2020, and his first at-bat — a second-pitch solo home run — will be remembered.

The homer was rare; Alcantara only had nine in 2,266 minor-league at-bats across seven seasons. The 24-year-old isn’t swinging for the fences with Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League, but is taking steps in the right direction as a contact hitter.

Through seven games, Alcantara is 9-for-21 (.429) with one double, one RBI, five strikeouts and one walk. Hitting No. 9 in the order, he is 1-for-1 on stolen base attempts and has a .455 on-base percentage and a .476 slugging percentage. 

Defensively, Alcantara is getting his reps at shortstop and has two errors in 31 chances.

[ Tigers’ Willi Castro hasn’t heard if he will play shortstop in 2021 ]

This is Alcantara’s fifth season in the Dominican Winter League. He hit .250 in 33 games in 2016-17, .255 mark in 33 games in 2017-18, .213 in 30 games in 2018-19 and .286 across four games in 2019-20.

In 10 games for the Tigers last season, the 5-foot-9, 151-pound infielder went 3-for-21 (.143) with one triple, one home run, one RBI, four strikeouts and two walks. He played second and third base.

Paredes won’t slow down

Third baseman Isaac Paredes is the longest-serving member of the Tigers in the winter leagues this offseason, playing 21 games for Venados de Mazatlán in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.

And the 21-year-old won’t stop hitting.

Paredes is 26-for-73 (.356) with eight doubles, two homers and 17 RBIs in Mexico. He has 12 walks (and three intentional walks) compared to eight strikeouts. His on-base percentage is .437 and slugging percentage is .548.

On Thursday, Paredes went 3-for-4 with a solo home run. On Sunday, he was 1-for-3 with a two-run double and a walk in a 7-2 victory.

[ How Isaac Paredes was discovered in Mexico: ‘This guy’s got it’ ]

Paredes had an 11-game hitting streak from Nov. 17 through Nov. 29, but it was snapped with an 0-for-3 performance in the second game of a doubleheader. He holds a six-game hitting streak (Dec. 1 through Sunday).

Playing third base, Paredes has three errors in 52 chances (.942 fielding percentage), with 34 assists and 15 putouts.

Ranked No. 6 in the team’s farm system by MLB Pipeline, he made his MLB debut and appeared in 34 games last season. He hit .220 with four doubles, one homer and six RBIs. 

READ MORE: Skubal jumps Mize in Baseball America’s Tigers prospect rankings

Carlton still dealing

One of the most underrated players in the winter leagues is right-handed reliever Drew Carlton, who holds a 0.90 ERA through 10 innings. He has allowed seven hits, one earned run, nine strikeouts and zero walks in 10 games for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.

This is the 25-year-old’s first offseason in the Dominican.

Carlton pitched for Double-A Erie in the 2019 season, boasting a 1.46 ERA, 65 strikeouts and 18 walks in 68 innings as a reliever. He wasn’t at summer camp in Detroit or the alternate training site in Toledo, but pitched in the instructional league in Lakeland, Florida, in October and November.

Through three minor-league seasons, Carlton has a 1.74 ERA, 0.971 WHIP, 162 strikeouts and 33 walks in 160⅔ innings across 104 appearances. If his success continues, the former 32nd-round pick in the 2017 draft could make his MLB debut in 2021.

Coming soon

The Tigers have 14 players, including four with MLB experience, gearing up to begin winter league games.

Players from the majors are Candelario for Toros del Este (Dominican Republic), Soto for Águilas Cibaeñas (DR), right-hander Jose Cisnero for Estrellas Orientales (DR) and outfielder Daz Cameron for Cangrejeros de Santurce (Puerto Rico).

The others: Eliezer Alfonzo for Leones del Caracas (Venezuela), Esney Chacon for Bravos de Margarita (Venezuela), Adolfo Bauza for Bravos de Margarita (Venezuela), Rodolfo Fajardo for Caribes de Anzoátegui (Venezuela), Jesus Rodriguez for Leones del Caracas (Venezuela), Angel Reyes for Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico), Cam Gibson for Sydney Blue Sox (Australia), Jacob Robson for Sydney Blue Sox (Australia), Joe Navilhon for Sydney Blue Sox (Australia) and Ulrich Bojarski for Perth Heat (Australia).

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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