Your average 19-year-old baseball prospect is working this summer with the minor-league minnows, maybe on a farm system’s back lots.
Isaac Paredes, who is 19 but anything but average, last week hopped a plane bound for Double-A Erie.
He liked his new home that isn’t far, geographically or developmentally, from Detroit and Comerica Park. He dug it so much he decided in his first two games for the SeaWolves to rack up four hits and three walks.
But a word about that promotion. There was another time in Tigers annals when a teen shortstop got a summer ticket to Double A. It was in 1976 and the kid was Alan Trammell. And while no one is yet tying their names together, Paredes has a chance to be good, very good, indeed.
Paredes is the first Florida State League teen to have hit double-digit homers in a season since Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Dominguez did it in 2009 when both were with the Marlins.
This muscle-mania is not common for minor-leaguers of any vintage in a league where big ballparks and body-wilting heat are the norms. Paredes, though, slammed a dozen homers for Single-A Lakeland when the Tigers decided his right-handed power, as well as his overall comportment, were worth a flight to Erie.
Paredes seemed right at home against Double-A pitching in his first two games.
“He’s an advanced hitter,” said Dave Littlefield, the Tigers vice president for player development, explaining why the Tigers felt comfortable shipping a teen to Double A. “He’s got a good feel for the bat. He’s been putting up some real strong numbers, particularly during the last month.
“He was leading the league in slugging this month, and we like the guy a lot. He’s got an advanced game, overall, and as we talked to our staff and to the analytics people, we just made sure we were all in agreement this was the right move.”
The move was easy when Paredes batted .310 in July, with a .394 on-base percentage and mammoth .638 slugging percentage, good for an OPS of 1.032. He had also feasted in June, batting .305 with an .832 OPS.
Paredes joined the Tigers on July 31 of last year as he was packaged with Jeimer Candelario in a trade that sent Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Cubs.
Paredes was viewed even then as the potential prize, although Candelario was more advanced and, despite an icy past month at the plate, figures yet to be a prime-time hitter and third baseman.
What hasn’t been answered is whether Paredes can stick at a position the Tigers ideally want him to lock down: shortstop. He plays smoothly enough at short. But while he is a sturdy 5-foot-11, he also weighs 225 pounds, which would be fine if it were all lean muscle.
The bulk affects range. And range is nothing big-league teams care to forfeit at shortstop.
“His shortstop play is fine, and he’s a talented defender, with good actions,” Littlefield said. "He can throw, and he has a feel for reading the hop, which is always a trait the good ones have. The big issue is he’s got to get himself better-conditioned. That will be the determining factor on where he plays and kind of level-player he is.”
That means easing off the pizza, potato chips, and bad carbs for more protein, vegetables, and fruit. But this, the Tigers understand, also is a teenager. Eating habits can be tough to reverse, no matter how many staffers and counselors work to make Paredes understand that diet, as much as his talent, can get him to the big leagues.
“He’s still young,” Littlefield said. “The final outcome’s a long ways away. But to play in the middle infield, you’ll notice it’s trim and fit, fast-twitch athletes. And yet everybody’s working on different things.
“He’s made some improvement. And we’ve talked about this. At 19, like all of us who look back, there are things we’ve learned, and so this will all be for his benefit. But he’s got to get himself more fit.”
Paredes is from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, and was signed by the Cubs in 2016. He was playing last season at Single-A South Bend and had wowed Tigers scouts who wanted him in any deal with the Cubs.
The Tigers prefer that Paredes stick at short for the simple reason a bat on his level can be a lineup bonanza. Teams can justify putting a lighter hitter at short because of the premium on defense. But if a top-flight bat is there, along with the glove, a championship roster can be anchored.
His bat can win Paredes a job somewhere, Littlefield acknowledges. Maybe it’s elsewhere in the infield. Perhaps it’s as a corner outfielder. Paredes would not be the first shortstop to relocate.
“We’re still a ways away,” Littlefield said. “We’re not at the major leagues quite yet. We’ll see how it progresses. You always try to keep guys at premium positions: shortstops, center fielders, starting pitchers. Frequently, though, third basemen or second basemen were shortstops. There are a lot of corner outfielders who were center-fielders on the way up. A lot of relievers were starters on the way up.”
Paredes is the second snazzy Tigers position prospect in the past five weeks to have been bumped from Lakeland to Erie. Daz Cameron, who could within a couple of seasons be the Tigers’ regular in center, is batting .309 for the SeaWolves, with a .920 OPS.
Cameron, who is 21, delights the Tigers in every way.
“Very happy,” Littlefield said of the team’s choice to move Cameron to Erie. “Very mature, mature young man, and a very good feeling and confidence in how he’s developing. He’s got some physical talent, and when you combine that with the work habits, the character, the toughness, the seriousness of his craft — he’s got a chance to be exceptional.”
And so, too, does the kid at Erie.
The Tigers will wait — and weight — this one out. The bat’s there and should get better. A gifted talent six months from turning 20 is one of the best shortstop/hitting prospects the Tigers have owned since, well, since that teen from California showed up 40-plus years ago.