Why Detroit Tigers prospect Isaac Paredes feels ‘more mature’ in second MLB opportunity

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers needed a replacement for third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who was placed on the bereavement list Tuesday and traveled to his home in the Dominican Republic to be with his family.

The organization considered bringing back infielder Zack Short, who was sent down to Triple-A Toledo on Sunday after a short stint in his first MLB season. Another consideration was 22-year-old infielder Isaac Paredes, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the team’s No. 4 prospect. He made his MLB debut in 2020 and was swinging his bat well for the Mud Hens this season.

Now, Paredes is back in the major leagues.

“One of the things that makes a difference is maturity,” Paredes said Tuesday, after getting called up. “I feel more mature now. I feel ready for coming back to the best baseball in the world and taking every opportunity the manager has to give me.”

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Manager AJ Hinch offered Paredes a chance to make the Opening Day roster in spring training.

Paredes secured the Mexican Pacific Winter League batting title this past offseason by hitting .379 in 42 games for Venados de Mazatlan, with 27 walks and 12 strikeouts.

Armed with momentum and confidence, Paredes was unable to earn a spot on the 26-man roster. He finished with a .135 batting average across 19 spring training games.

“He was very disappointed coming out of camp,” Hinch said. “The first week or so at the alternate site, he was pretty down about not making it. This was the first legitimate chance for him to break with a major-league club.

Paredes added: “I took it as a lesson to work harder and took the experience as having more hunger for getting back.”

It’s unclear how long Paredes is going to stick around in the majors, since Candelario is slated to return in three-to-seven days. But he started Tuesday’s game against the Mariners at third base. He hit .220 with one home run and six RBIs in 34 games last season.

Much has changed since then.

“Having in my mind the good things that I did and recognizing the mistakes I made,” Paredes said about what he learned from 2020. “Learning and maturing from all the experiences from other players and from my teammates helped bring me back.”

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For the Mud Hens, Paredes hit .269 with two home runs, 14 RBIs, 14 walks and 17 strikeouts in 28 games. He drilled two doubles and two triples, with a .352 on-base percentage, playing 13 games at second base, seven at third base and five at shortstop.

“I’ve been able to play a lot of positions,” Paredes said. “I feel ready for wherever the manager will give me the opportunity to play on the field.”

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Defense is a strength for Paredes. Even though he isn’t the quickest infielder, his instincts are exceptional. In the batter’s box, however, he only registered a .380 slugging percentage in Triple-A Toledo.

For reference, he had a .290 slugging percentage in his MLB debut season. The power struggles are concerning, but Hinch believes Paredes needs to make crucial developmental steps before worrying about slugging home runs.

“The quality of pitch selection is going to be key for him,” Hinch said. “You’re not going to hit for power if you are blindly swinging at every pitch in every situation and trying to cover every scenario. The power usually comes as players know the strike zone a little bit more, at least for hitters like Isaac.

“We don’t want him fixated on power right now. I think the quality at-bat is the number one key for him. As he piles up more and more, he’ll learn how to hunt for pitches that he can drive and hit for extra bases. I would rather have it that way than trying to dial a guy back to make more contact.”

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Although Paredes has lacked power since slugging .416 for Double-A Erie in 2019, he started to get comfortable in Triple-A this season by hitting for contact. His results were enough to warrant an opportunity — even if it’s short-lived — in the majors.

More importantly, the Tigers expect Paredes to contribute to the rebuild.

This is another chance to prepare for an everyday role in the future.

“We want to give him a look,” Hinch said. “He’s preformed pretty well in Triple-A. The reports from Tom (Prince, Toledo manager) and the group down there is that he’s showing the same instincts and feel for the game. His offense has picked up in the past few weeks, and he needs to be reminded that he’s not out of sight, out of mind.

“He is very much a part of what we want to do. The fact that we have some playing time this series, maybe even into the (Chicago) White Sox series, it seemed like a good time for us to give him a look.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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