MINNEAPOLIS — The Tigers have talked with Isaac Paredes about being more aggressive at the plate and trying to hit for more power. At the same time, he has been trying to maintain the strike-zone discipline that topped his resume as a prospect.
The challenge of striking that balance, and the risk and reward of both facets, has been on display in recent days, including the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to the Twins on Tuesday. He ripped a Charlie Barnes offspeed pitch into the seats down the left-field line before taking a called third strike in the second inning, then scorched a line drive into left field for a double off Barnes in the fourth. However, he advanced Miguel Cabrera into scoring position in the sixth inning with an opposite-field ground ball through the right side.
A couple of days earlier, he ripped another ball down the left-field line at Comerica Park that bounced out of play for a ground-rule double to load the bases in the ninth inning against Royals closer Scott Barlow.
The vast majority of the balls in play since his return to the Tigers just over a week ago have been to the pull side.
“It’s something that I have to do,” said Paredes through a translator a few days ago, “be more aggressive, have a good strike zone and be aggressive on the first pitches of every at-bat. Getting back that old Isaac, that’s one of the things that the coaches have told me.”
Paredes has not really been a formidable power hitter. His best season for power in the big leagues was in 2018, when he hit 15 home runs, 28 doubles and carried a .456 slugging percentage in 123 games between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. He hit 13 home runs and 23 doubles in a full season with Erie in 2019, but his slugging percentage dropped to .416. Some evaluators who watched him on his way up the system believed that he could be a solid pure hitter in the Majors, but not with much power.
So far, his slugging percentage as a Tiger is .323 with just two homers in 54 games across two seasons. The Tigers are trying to tap into his natural strength and get more out of his swing without him giving away his sense of the strike zone.
It’s a small sample size this year, but while his average exit velocity has fallen against fastballs as the season has gone on, it has risen against offspeed pitches and breaking balls. For the season, his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate are up slightly from last year, and his average launch angle has risen from 7.5 to 17.5 degrees.
The risk with that is getting too aggressive and losing plate discipline. However, Paredes entered Wednesday with more walks (four) than strikeouts (three) since his return from Triple-A Toledo. With the Mud Hens, the ratio was more impressive, with 28 walks against 17 strikeouts in a month of play since his return from injury in mid-August.
“I’ve been feeling very good and so I’m going back to put into practice what we’ve been working on in the Minor Leagues, getting confidence and trusting myself and trusting my talents and giving the best of myself,” Paredes said.
Another road milestone for Miggy?
The Miggy Milestone counter at Comerica Park closed at 502 career home runs and 2,987 hits following Monday’s Tigers home finale.
Will there be a milestone for Cabrera to chase by the time the Tigers return for their 2022 home opener next April 8?
The Tigers are on the road for their final week of this season. They’ll also open next season on the road for seven games in Seattle and Oakland. If Cabrera gets even mildly hot — he had hits in nine consecutive at-bats earlier this month — he has a good chance of getting to 3,000 before the Tigers return to Detroit.
It would be another tough break for Tigers fans, who watched Cabrera spend an entire homestand last month trying for 500 home runs before finally hitting it in Toronto.
“I tested the baseball gods with 500. It didn’t work out,” manager A.J. Hinch said last weekend. “He’s going to get his hits whenever he gets his hits.”
Cabrera played five out of six games on the Tigers’ final homestand, allowing fans to follow his hit parade. Hinch indicated last week that he was on the fence about playing Cabrera in Monday’s makeup game against the White Sox, but decided to start him at DH. He ended up with two hits, including a double that ignited the Tigers’ five-run rally in the eighth inning to nearly overcome a six-run deficit in an 8-7 loss.
Cabrera will likely get a couple days of rest on this season-ending road trip, Hinch said. But unless Cabrera is perhaps a hit or two away heading into the final game of their opening road trip next season, don’t expect Hinch to alter his playing time plans.
“I’m not sitting him the first road trip,” Hinch said half-jokingly. “Breaking news.”