Detroit Tigers infielder Isaac Paredes must capitalize on ‘a very big opportunity’

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers infielder Isaac Paredes, a former top prospect, is back for another spring training, and his search for career-changing breakthrough continues.

He is once again in the mix to make the Opening Day roster. The 23-year-old has competed in parts of two MLB seasons but hasn’t established himself as a big-leaguer, with just 57 games of MLB experience.

“It’s a very big opportunity for me,” Paredes said last week, with Tigers bilingual media coordinator Carlos Guillen interpreting. “It means a lot that I have a chance to fight for a roster spot. It’s a decision the team has got to make, but I’m lucky to be able to prove myself to do it.”

He traveled to Mexico this offseason for action in the Mexican Pacific Winter League, his fifth consecutive winter ball season in his home country. He won the league’s batting title in the 2020-21 campaign.

Paredes this offseason hit .282 (40-for-142) with six doubles, four home runs, 23 RBIs, 37 walks and 20 strikeouts in 42 games for Venados de Mazatlan in the regular season.

He then hit .393 (11-for-28) with one double, five RBIs, four walks and two strikeouts for Naranjeros de Hermosillo — he was selected by his hometown team in the reinforcement draft — in seven playoff games.

“The thing I worked on a lot was (hitting) fastballs, which is something that I’ve been struggling with here in the U.S., so I worked on that a lot,” Paredes said. “I focused on hitting the ball up the middle. That’s one of the things I focused on the most, and fortunately, it’s been working so far.”

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Paredes played 23 games for the Tigers and 72 games for Triple-A Toledo last season. He hit .208 with one home run, 10 walks and 11 strikeouts for the Tigers, showcasing his above-average plate discipline, along with a .265 batting average, 11 homers, 56 walks and 47 strikeouts for the Mud Hens.

Paredes is an advanced all-around hitter at Triple-A.

“I’d like the comfort and confidence that he showed throughout the minor leagues at his performance level to be here,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said recently. “Last year, at the end of the year, he was extremely comfortable (in MLB). He fits in perfectly. We’ll see how the roster shakes out.”

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The final spot on the Opening Day roster could come down to Paredes, Willi Castro, Kody Clemens and Zack Short. If Ryan Kreidler continues to thrive for the Mud Hens, he could make his MLB debut during the season.

The competition is fierce, and although Paredes is sound defensively at third base, second base and shortstop, there’s a lingering concern with his offensive production.

“To me,” Hinch said, “everyone’s going to question, does he have enough power to play every day in the big leagues?”

Paredes had an 85.5 mph average exit velocity last season and hit one home run, cranking a misplaced 82 mph changeup from Chicago White Sox starter Lucas Giolito. The ball traveled 377 feet and had a 100.5 mph exit velocity. 

In 2021, Paredes hit .250 against breaking pitches and .333 against offspeed offerings.

But he posted a .135 batting average against fastballs.

“I’m working on the fastballs, and one of the things I’ve been working on is getting more power so I can show it here,” Paredes said. “It all starts in the batting cage. I know I will see a lot of fastballs, so as soon as I take it from there, my mindset is ready to see it on the field and take advantage.”

If Paredes shows pull-side power to left field, and continues his impressive strike-zone awareness, he will improve his chances of playing a significant role for the Tigers in 2022.

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He might even make the Opening Day roster.

“The most important thing for me is to help this team win,” Paredes said. “I am focused on that. I’m ready to show myself, that I can help this team win.”

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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