Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Candelario is an ultimate underdog story for the Lions


The Saitama Seibu Lions signed Alexis Candelario on Wednesday. However, this isn't a move to be thrilled about based on history.

Candelario will be 35 next year and there is minimal upside. He has never played under a major league organization, even in the minors. In November, he was slated to be part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization on a minor league deal.

For those who like feel-good stories of a guy rising from the ashes, this is for you. Candelario has played baseball in six countries and Japan is expected to be his 7th in his career. He previously spent time in Nicaragua, Mexico, Venezuela, USA, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

When he was stateside, Candelario was part of an independent league known as the Atlantic League Professional Baseball. In 2016 alone, he had stints in the States, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

He has racked up plenty of mileage, but very few results. His breakthrough in working up the ranks came from 2015 in Venezuela, where he had a 2.16 ERA in 11 starts through 14 games. After being decent in Italy for 2016, he moved quickly to Mexico for a 2nd career stint.

Like graduating school, it helps get to where he is today, but it all resets assuming he enters Japan. Lions fans will need to have low expectations in 2017 for him.

The Lions management made a desperate signing, hoping to get lucky. It almost feels as if they just looked at some productive baseball stats and signed Candelario based on numbers. Given the Lions rotation depth, they're going to need him to help out in the short term while some of the younger pitchers like Tatsuya Imai develop in the farm.

Base case scenario will likely be a No. 5 starter to eat up innings. In the worst case, he could start games in April but spend the rest of the season in ni-gun. If it could get worse, Candelario can make a bad impression on the Lions coaches like how C.C. Lee did in camp and not earn playing time.

Call it a cheap signing, similar to the likes of how Miguel Mejia was with the team in 2015.   Regardless, Candelario becomes an interesting story for someone as traveled as he is.

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