Lakeland, Fla. — On his left forearm, inked in Roman numerals, is a tattoo of his daughter’s birth date.
Susuki was born in 2018 and that’s right about when Tigers’ third-base prospect Isaac Paredes decided to really get serious about his career. Which is an odd thing to say about a guy who was just 19 years old at the time.
“I used to have a perspective on things,” Paredes said through interpreter Carlos Guillen Saturday morning. “That’s different right now. And I am talking about responsibility. Right now, I see things differently. I have more responsibility right now.”
Paredes, the Mexican-born, No. 5-ranked prospect in the Tigers’ system, came over from the Cubs with Jeimer Candelario in the Alex Avila-Justin Wilson trade in 2017. Reports were that he could flat-out hit, but there was concern about his dietary habits and work ethic.
He came up playing shortstop, but even as an 18-year-old, scouts were projecting him to be too heavy to play middle infield in the big leagues.
“I’ve had to work on all kinds of things, but mostly I was working on maturity,” he said. “I don’t do the same things I used to do in 2018, 2017. I am focused on myself and my work.”
He was asked if he was talking about work ethic or his personal choices.
“Both,” he said.
You’d be hard-pressed to knock Paredes’ work ethic this past year. He played 127 games at Double-A Erie last season, hit .282 with a .368 on-base percentage, slugging .416 with 13 home runs and 66 RBIs. He was selected to play in the Futures Game and in the Arizona Fall League, where he played 15 more games.
After that, he went back home and played in the Mexican Professional Winter League — another 44 games where he hit .295 with a .372 on-base percentage and a .746 OPS.
All told, he got 809 plate appearances last season, hitting .280 with almost as many walks (86) and strikeouts (92).
“The kid is a player,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s a baseball player. He’s a grinder and he gets after it. It’ll be fun to watch him here. I get excited about watching guys like that.”
Sights and sounds of Tigers spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. The Detroit News
The 5-foot-11 Paredes has come to his first big-league camp at the same weight (225 pounds) he played at last year. And he looks no worse for wear after his 186-game season.
“I feel very good,” he said. “You know what, I think it helped me a lot playing in Mexico this winter. I am ready. Just the experience. Down there we play hard baseball. We have Major League players down there and I am very thankful to play with them and learn from them.”
His team in Mexico, Obregon, won the league, going 44-22. Among his teammates were Royals Cheslor Cuthbert, Brewers Luis Urias, former White Sox Willy Garcia and former Royal Paulo Orlando.
“That was good for me,” he said. “But now I am very excited and thrilled to be here. It’s a dream come true being here.”
Paredes, who turns 21 Tuesday, is expected to start the season as the every day third baseman at Triple-A Toledo. There is a chance he could work his way to Detroit by the end of the season. But he’s doing his best to keep those kinds of thoughts out of his head.
“I’ve been working with the mindset of, just take it one step at a time, one day at a time,” Paredes said. “Just stay focused on the present. Just get ready, take it slow, one step at a time. The goal is to be ready to play and help my team win at whatever level I’m at.”