Yes, he’s young.
Yes, he’s inexperienced.
But the Detroit Tigers took a calculated risk with Izaac Pacheco. They decided to challenge him and it’s paying off.
After drafting Pacheco out of high school with the 39th overall pick in 2021, the Tigers pushed him to Single-A Lakeland, where he is a relative youngster.
“We were aggressive pushing him to Lakeland and it’s been really impressive what he’s done,” Ryan Garko, the Tigers vice president of development, said.
Just 19, Pacheco has excelled in the Florida State League, where the average age is 21.2 years old. After 77 games, he ranked third in the league with 17 doubles, 12th with 36 RBIs, 14th with eight home runs and 32nd with a .753 on-base-plus-slugging.
“What he’s doing in his first year — he’s so young in that league — it’s pretty special what he’s doing,” Garko said. “He’s doing a great job. It’s his first full season right out of high school.”
Pacheco, who plays shortstop and third base, is also hitting .260, 31st in the league.
“The power is there,” Garko said. “He’s hitting for average. He’s controlling the zone. I know he was a high pick but to go out and actually perform at a very young age — after he was challenged — is really impressive. And his defense has been good, too.”
Getting to know you
You want to know the most impressive thing about Pacheco?
It’s not that he is ranked the Tigers No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
It’s not that he has a striking resemblance to former Tiger Nick Castellanos.
It’s his perspective. When I called him, he spent more time talking about his teammates than himself.
“It’s a solid team,” he said about the Flying Tigers. “We can hit the ball pretty well. We got some power in the lineup, and then we got a lot of college arms that can throw the ball. We’ve been gelling together really well, and I think that’s why we’ve had some success. It’s definitely a fun team to play with for sure.”
That’s good news for Tigers fans because the next wave of prospects is in Lakeland.
Manuel Sequera, another 19-year-old infielder and the Tigers’ No. 13 prospect, has crushed 14 home runs for Lakeland, which ranks second in the league.
“He moves really well,” Pacheco said of Sequera. “He kind of looks like a little snake out there.”
Yes, he meant that as a high compliment. “He moves well,” Pacheco said. “He throws the ball. And it’s definitely fun to play next to him.”
MORE FROM SEIDEL: Jackson Jobe and Izaac Pacheco have formed fast friendship
Cristian Santana, the Tigers’ No. 4 prospect, has struggled with a .200 batting average.
“He’s great,” Pacheco said. “He the guy that’s gonna make those flashy plays and he’s gonna look really good doing it. And he has a cannon for an arm.”
Pacheco is also getting a front row seat to the development of pitcher Jackson Jobe, the Tigers’ first-round pick last year.
“He’s been progressing,” Pacheco said. “It’s fun to play behind him and see him compete and see him progress and get better and better each time. You can see how much he wants to win and it’s fun.”
“What is his stuff like?” I asked.
“It’s great,” Pacheco said. “He commands the ball really well. His slider is obviously deadly and his fastball is starting to get a lot of swing and misses. It’s starting to play well up in the zone, starting to get a little ride; and it’s good to see him progress and see all his pitches do really well.”
Pacheco also praised No. 9 prospect Roberto Campos, a 19-year-old outfielder hitting .256.
“He’s a guy that’s a spark in the lineup,” Pacheco said. “He gonna do anything he can help the team win. If he needs to hit a sacrifice, he’s gonna do it. If he needs a double, he is gonna do it. And he’s kind of the leader in the outfield. He is really vocal. Another guy that I love to play with. He makes the team really fun.”
Pacheco was on a roll, talking about his teammates.
So I dug a little.
“We’ve mentioned some of the big names,” I said. “Who else has really impressed you?”
“Esney Chaco,” Pacheco said.
Chacon, a 22-year-old outfielder, hit .337 with an .837 OPS in 30 games before he was promoted to High-A West Michigan.
“He was absolutely crushing the ball for us,” Pacheco said. “He was batting leadoff and every time he was up at the plate, he was gonna get a single or double. Great ballplayer, great guy and he really impressed me.”
“OK, how about pitchers?” I asked.
He quickly named Garrett Burhenn, a 22-year-old pitcher the Tigers took in the ninth round in 2021 out of Ohio State. He has 82 strikeouts with 11 walks in 62⅔ innings with a 1.021 WHIP.
“That dude absolutely shoves,” Pacheco said. “I didn’t know him before we got drafted because he was a college guy. He doesn’t throw 100, nothing overpowering. But he always finds a way to get outs. It’s fun to play behind that guy.”
Leadership skills at work
Finally, we got around to talking about his season.
Pacheco has split time at third base and short.
“I’ll get one or two games a week at short and then the rest at third right now,” he said. “I feel like it’s good for me to be a little versatile.”
He is also learning Spanish to communicate with some of his teammates.
“I’ve been trying to learn as much Spanish as I can,” Pacheco said. “Just so I can talk to those guys and being able to communicate with Santana in the infield. I think we make it work really well. I feel like that’s why our team has gelled really well is because we find a way, even though we speak different languages. The more you talk to each other, the more you’re gonna learn.”
Even though he is from Texas, Pacheco is still adjusting to the Florida heat. But he tries not to dwell on it.
“You can’t look at it and say, ‘it’s hot; it’s brutal; it’s raining every day,’” he said. “That’s just gonna make it worse. You try to look at the positives and be grateful that we’re out here and be grateful that we’re playing this game and I think that helps if you just kind of look at it in a positive way.
“I’m just trying to do what I can do and try to be consistent as possible and just try to give it my all every day. I try to help my team my team win and be positive in the dugout, trying to be a leader.”
This kid is 19 years old?
He doesn’t sound like it.
And he’s not hitting like it, either.
MORE FROM SEIDEL: How Tigers prospect Josh Crouch hit his way to West Michigan
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.