Detroit Tigers: Three Problems With Isaac Paredes

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Isaac Paredes had a terrific first week. Then reality struck.

 

Isaac Paredes is one of the Detroit Tigers’ top prospects, and the young third baseman seemed to make good on those lofty rankings in his first week of MLB action, going 7-for-22 with a double, four walks, and memorable home run:

Unfortunately, things went south rather quickly for the native of Hermosillo, Mexico. Paredes was just 1-for-29 over his next 12 games, with one walk and eight strikeouts.

Paredes may have righted the ship recently, with four hits and two doubles in his past five games, but in the midst of his struggles Jacob, Rogelio, and I did a video breakdown to try to diagnose his issues. We came up with three potential causes:

Isaac Paredes is Too Patient

This was Jake’s theory, and he explained it well. He thought opposing pitchers were taking advantage of Paredes’ passivity to get an easy first strike and then expand the zone later. And sure enough, this theory was soon echoed by Ron Gardenhire himself:

Isaac Paredes has swung at the first pitch just 12 times in 72 plate appearances this year. On those 12 swings he has four whiffs, three fouls, two singles, two fly outs, and a ground out.

This year, all of baseball is hitting .258 with an .837 OPS after getting ahead in the count 1-0, and .216 with a .629 OPS after falling behind 0-1. Paredes has taken 30 first-pitch strikes and 30 first-pitch balls so far, so his passivity has basically been a wash in terms of setting himself up for success.

Ideally, he’d continue to lay off the balls while getting more aggressive with first-pitch strikes. He’s 2-for-5 when he puts the ball in play, and for what it’s worth, all MLB batters are hitting .343 with a .954 OPS when they swing at the first pitch.

That doesn’t mean Paredes should just automatically hack at the first offering — pitchers would quickly adjust to that — but right now his patience isn’t offering him any kind of benefit, so he might as well go on the offensive and force pitchers to make those adjustments.

Isaac Paredes Can’t Hit the Curve

Rogelio mentioned this, and it wasn’t so much a theory as it was an observation, but it merits investigation.

Sure enough, Paredes is 0-for-20 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending on non-fastballs. And it’s not as if he’s making hard contact and being robbed. His expected batting average on secondary offerings is just .114, which ranks 379th out of 383 hitters this season.

This seems like a problem. Many times these sorts of issues get exposed in the minors, but of course big-league pitchers have much better command of their breaking balls and changeups than their minor-league counterparts.

And to be fair, Paredes has never had a plate appearance at the Triple-A level, where wily veteran pitchers often force hitting prospects to refine their approach. We should never forget the talent gap between Double-A and the major leagues is vast.

Of course, one other reason for his trouble with secondary offerings could be that…

Isaac Paredes Has a Grooved Swing

This was my concern. I’m no scout, and I’m terrible at breaking down swings, but I look at Isaac Paredes and see a hitter who struggles to manipulate the barrel of the bat to make hard contact.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a grooved swing, here is Kiley McDaniel’s explanation from his 2014 scouting article at FanGraphs:

A grooved swing can often be picked out quickly in batting practice. This type of hitter is stiff athletically and the swing has some steepness to it, while also looking exactly the same every time. Having the bat in the zone a long time gives you a chance to hit balls that you don’t time perfectly. A grooved, stiff swing means you have to time the ball perfectly and have it come right into your wheelhouse of the limited areas you can make hard contact.

As I mentioned, I’m not a scout, and this is again the sort of thing that would presumably be exposed in the minors, or even as Kiley suggests, in batting practice. I’ve never read or heard a peep from a scout or an evaluator that Paredes has a grooved swing. I’m almost certainly wrong.

And yet, I see a steep swing that follows the same path every time, and a stiff player with well below-average foot speed and a lack of quick-twitch athleticism. And above all, I see a hitter who makes contact with relative ease, but struggles to make hard contact on anything that isn’t up and over the heart of the plate.

The stats back me up right now. Among 380 hitters who have seen at least 200 pitches, Isaac Paredes ranks 32nd when it comes to making contact — roughly 85% of the pitches he swings at are either fouled or put into play. But if we strip out the fouls, his contract rate drops to 264th, or about 46.2%.

And perhaps most troubling of all, among 354 hitters with at least 40 batted-ball events, Isaac Paredes ranks 342nd in hard-hit rate. He’s one of just 19 hitters yet to record a barrel.

None of these stats prove he has a grooved swing, of course. They just show he’s had trouble making hard contact, and there could be a dozen different reasons for that.

Conclusions

Baseball is hard. Jeimer Candelario is the best hitter on the Tigers right now, and he began the season on an 0-for-17 skid. This of course came after he spent roughly two full years as one of the worst hitters in baseball. Isaac Paredes has plenty of time to figure things out, but right now it looks like his swing isn’t quite ready for the big leagues.

Below you’ll see a pair of highlight reels to judge Paredes for yourself. Let us know what you think.

Paredes’ last five swings:

And the five swings before that:

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