Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: Joe Jimenez debuts; Isaac Paredes crushing home runs

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez stood on the mound Friday to pitch the ninth inning, making his season debut for Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

The 26-year-old clashed with three batters: Vimael Machin, Nelson Velazquez and Mark Contreras. He retired his opponents in order, striking out Machin and Contreras, to earn the save in a 4-3 win over Criollos de Caguas.

It was Jimenez’s first appearance in the Puerto Rican Winter League since the 2015-16 offseason.

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The batters Jimenez faced aren’t pushovers, either.

Machin, 28, played 15 games for the Oakland Athletics last season. Most of his year was spent in Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .295 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs in 89 games. He has 39 games of MLB experience over parts of two seasons, hitting .179 with 11 walks and 20 strikeouts.

Velazquez, 22, competed in 103 games between High-A South Bend (69 games) and Double-A Tennessee (34 games) for the Chicago Cubs. He hit .290 with eight homers and 27 RBIs upon his promotion to the Double-A level.

Contreras, 26, is a member of the Minnesota Twins. He played 19 games for Double-A Wichita and 95 games for Triple-A St. Paul. Nearing his MLB debut, Contreras delivered a .248 batting average, 18 homers and 63 RBIs for St. Paul.

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In 2021, Jimenez posted a 5.96 ERA, 35 walks and 57 strikeouts in 45⅓ innings over 52 games out of the bullpen. The Tigers tendered the right-hander a contract last week, meaning he will return for the 2022 season.

Jimenez, an All-Star in 2018, doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2023 campaign. He had a 6.35 ERA, 41 walks and 79 strikeouts in 68 innings over 77 appearances in the 2020-21 seasons.

Despite the poor results, the Tigers believe Jimenez can become a valuable reliever because of his underlying numbers. The expected batting averages against his three pitches last season were .168 vs. his four-seam fastball, .157 vs. his slider and .197 vs. his changeup.

He had a 3.92 expected ERA.

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Paredes smashing HRs

Infielder Isaac Paredes had a miserable start for Venados de Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific Winter League, hitting .175 with three doubles, eight RBIs, 12 walks and nine strikeouts in his first 17 games.

In his past 11 games, Paredes, 22, is hitting .450 (18-for-40) with three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBIs, 11 walks and three strikeouts. He has a .289 batting average, six doubles, four homers, 20 RBIs, 23 walks and 12 strikeouts across 28 games in Mexico this offseason.

Of Paredes’ four homers, three have occurred in his past five games.

He homered off right-hander Geno Encina (Algodoneros de Guasave) in the fourth inning Wednesday, righty Edgar Arredondo (Tomateros de Culiacan) in the fifth inning Friday and left-hander Anthony Vazquez (Tomateros de Culiacan) in the fourth inning Saturday.

Paredes has spent nine games at third base and 19 games as the designated hitter for Venados de Mazatlan. As for his two-year MLB career, Paredes has started 38 games at third base, nine at second base and four at shortstop.

Last season, Paredes played 23 games for the Tigers and 72 games for Triple-A Toledo. He hit .208 in the majors with one home run, five RBIs, 10 walks and 11 strikeouts. For the Mud Hens, he hit .265 with 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 56 walks and 47 strikeouts.

Paredes has a .215 batting average, two homers, 11 RBIs, 18 walks and 35 strikeouts in his 57-game MLB career.

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Castro, Carlton done

Infielder Willi Castro and right-handed reliever Drew Carlton have completed their offseason assignments for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.

Castro hit .172 (5-for-29) with one home run, two RBIs, zero walks and five strikeouts in eight games.

The 24-year-old missed 10 days in November due to shoulder discomfort but returned to the team for his final game Nov. 24. On Nov. 30, Castro ended his participation with Leones del Escogido because his permit from the Tigers expired.

Castro has a .248 batting average, 36 walks and 181 strikeouts in 191 games across parts of three MLB seasons. He hit .220 with 15 doubles, six triples, nine home runs, 38 RBIs, 23 walks and 109 strikeouts in 2021.

Poor defense forced the Tigers to move Castro away from the shortstop position, so he spent most of 2021 as the team’s second baseman. He then transitioned to the outfield toward the end of the year. He started four games at second base, three games at shortstop and one game as the designated hitter in the Dominican Republic.

Carlton pitched in eight games out of the bullpen. He logged a 4.32 ERA with two walks and eight strikeouts in 8⅓ innings. It was his second consecutive offseason pitching for Leones del Escogido.

The 26-year-old made his MLB debut in 2021. In four appearances, he registered a 4.91 ERA, four walks and one strikeout in 3⅔ innings. He had a 2.92 ERA, 10 walks and 49 strikeouts in 52⅓ innings across 33 games (two starts) for Toledo in 2021.

The Tigers removed him from the 40-man roster in early November. He is expected to begin the 2022 season in Toledo.

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Other players

• Right-handed reliever Nivaldo Rodriguez is pitching for Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He has tossed 1⅔ scoreless innings with two walks and four strikeouts Saturday. The Tigers claimed him off waivers from the Houston Astros in August. The 24-year-old has a 4.50 ERA over 16 innings in nine MLB games. He was removed from the Tigers’ 40-man roster in November and should begin 2022 in Toledo.

• Left-handed reliever Miguel Del Pozo is pitching for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. The 29-year-old has three scoreless innings, zero walks and three strikeouts in three appearances. He shined for Toledo in 2021 by delivering a 2.82 ERA, 16 walks and 54 strikeouts across 38⅓ innings in 34 games. He had a 3.38 ERA in 5⅓ innings for the Tigers.

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• Right-handed reliever Angel Reyes is pitching for Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He has an 11.37 ERA with seven walks and six strikeouts over 6⅓ innings in seven outings. The 24-year-old pitched for High-A West Michigan in 2021, with a 3.51 ERA, 17 walks and 54 strikeouts over 59 innings in 40 games.

• Infielder Carlos Mendoza is playing for Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League. The 21-year-old is hitting .174 (4-for-23) with two doubles, four walks and seven strikeouts in 14 games. He spent last season in the Florida Complex League (26 games), Low-A Lakeland (21 games) and Double-A Erie (two games).

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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