Lynn Henning has a conversation with Tigers prospect Isaac Paredes about batting, with Tigers Spanish language translator Bryan Loor-Almonte. Robin Buckson, Detroit News
Lakeland, Fla. – He was in an apartment in South Bend, Indiana, playing cards with teammates, when the call came last July.
Isaac Paredes, who thought he someday might lace liners into Wrigley Field’s ivy, no longer was Chicago Cubs property.
He was headed to the Tigers.
“It was something I definitely didn’t expect,” Paredes said last week, by way of an assist from Bryan Loor-Almonte, the Tigers’ media relations staffer who deftly translates Spanish and English for players and media. “I didn’t know much about the Tigers. It was so unexpected.”
For an 18-year-old shortstop, trades qualify as shock. For scouts who had been studying him in the Single A Midwest League, picking off Paredes was an easy endorsement to bosses hunting for minor-league gold at July’s trade deadline.
The Tigers were shopping a couple of people for whom the Cubs had affection: Justin Wilson, who then was obliterating batters as Detroit’s closer, and catcher Alex Avila, who for some time had been a Cubs target.
The Tigers wanted various prizes from the Cubs’ stable. They got their new third baseman, Jeimer Candelario, as part of the package. They also insisted on Paredes, who in July was distinguishing himself as a teenager playing well above his age: .264 batting average for South Bend, a handsome .343 on-base percentage, and owner of 25 doubles and seven home runs in the Midwest League’s big ballparks.
The Tigers took extra notes during their post-season Instructional Camp at TigerTown and sided with the scouts. They kept tabs when he marched off to his homeland, Mexico, for a winter-ball stint with Yaquis de Obregon, where in 15 games Paredes did more mashing: .370 batting average, .460 on-base, .556 slugging, .982 OPS, with a homer and seven doubles.
Paredes has a thick, well-muscled body. He is 5-foot-11 and is listed at 175 pounds, which appears to be a few kilos beneath Paredes’ more likely weight.
It isn’t that he is overweight. But one can see that Paredes’ body probably has absorbed more carbohydrates and sugars than nutritional gurus – not to mention the Tigers’ development bosses – would recommend.
It’s an important matter in that Paredes’ bat will be his friend as a shortstop. Moving to third base, which these days is considered more of a fence-buster’s position, could be problematic.
But there is time to wean a man from a teenager’s menu to more of an adult athlete’s intake.
What the Tigers know they have in spring camp is a hitter more mature than his chronological age. He is a fine defender at short with a good arm, which is what none other than Hall of Fame-bound Alan Trammell observed last week when he got a long look at Paredes and forwarded a review to Dave Littlefield, the Tigers’ vice president of player personnel.
“He’s definitely advanced,” said Littlefield, who has been sizing up Paredes since last summer. “He’s got that nice pure attribute of baseball awareness, and that’s a great trait to have. He’s got some physical skills, and his defense looks good, as Tram was just saying the other day. He liked him at shortstop – his actions and all. Very good glove, good fluid action, good hands, and an average-to-plus arm.
“And he’s got a good-looking bat with a chance to show some power.”
There is only that single concern: bulk, and how extra mass can rob a shortstop of range at a position where range means everything.
“If he plays shortstop, the bat plays much better,” Littlefield said. “He’s got a good bat, but you really need a big bat at third.
“The good news, even with the weight he’s at, even with the extra weight, he looks good there (shortstop). He moves well, he has that natural physical ability. He’s got good feet and good hands.
“But you also need to keep in mind that at that age most of us are thinner than we are later in life.”
TigerTown’s nutrition police will team with the development staff to reduce Paredes’ tortillas-and-burgers passion. It should help, they say, knowing that Paredes in baseball matters leans toward discipline.
It shows in that .343 on-base average from last season, which followed a .350 on-base mark in 2016, his first season of professional baseball in the United States when he batted .296.
It seems Paredes is not your conventional teen or hitter. He studies too hard. In the three years since he signed as a 16-year-old in Mexico he has turned into a hitting student wired to analysis and observation more common among high-IQ big-league batters.
“I’m always preparing,” he said, sipping from a bottle of water during an interview, in a meeting room deep within the new administrative complex at TigerTown. “I’m watching video on these guys (pitchers). Even during a game, I try and focus on every pitch – the spin on it.
“I really think that’s why my plate discipline is so good. I can remember what those guys are throwing.”
He probably will stick in Lakeland when camp breaks next month – but not as one of those teens who typically is groomed on TigerTown’s back fields until the farm system’s short-season teams begin playing in June.
Paredes more likely will be starting at shortstop for the Single A Flying Tigers. It’s nice altitude for a man who last month turned 19.
“In Chicago there were a lot of guys,” he said, speaking of his original team, the Cubs, and the waiting-line that might have kept him from moving as quickly as he might with the Tigers.
“There’s a better opportunity here.”