While spring training is still six weeks away, some of the Tigers’ prospects have just wrapped up stints playing winter league ball. Chief among them was shortstop Isaac Paredes, the Tigers’ ninth ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, whom they acquired in the Justin Wilson deal with the Cubs in July. Jeimer Candelario is no longer a prospect, but he and Sergio Alcantara did solid work this offseason as well. The final standout is reliever Paul Voelker, who has continued building on a strong second half in 2017.
The 18-year-old Paredes was a standout offensive performer for Yaquis de Obregon in the Mexican Pacific Winter League over the past two months. The league wrapped up its season on December 29. Paredes got just 54 at-bats, but he made them count. He posted a .982 OPS, racking up seven doubles and a home run in just 15 games against older competition.
Paredes has turned enough heads to merit a recent article on MLB.com looking back at a season that saw him take a sizable leap into the general consciousness of prospect hounds everywhere. He continues to look like one of most promising position players in Detroit’s farm system.
Over in the Dominican Winter League, Jeimer Candelario didn’t exactly dominate at the plate, but still put together a decent showing for Tigres del Licey. In 22 games, Candelario has posted a stellar .372 on base percentage, though he didn’t hit for much power. It may mean nothing at all for a player who played a lot of baseball in 2017, but it’s possible he may still have some growing pains ahead, despite his brilliant month of work for the Detroit Tigers late in the 2017 season.
Another notable from the Tigers’ organization is switch-hitting shortstop, Sergio Alcantara, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in the J.D. Martinez deal. Alcantara has played the full season for Tigres del Licey, getting 106 at-bats along the way. The slender defensive specialist is ranked No. 25 among Tigers prospects per MLB Pipeline. Unfortunately, his complete lack of extra base power remains his most obvious trait, though his plate discipline was strong. He posted a 14 percent walk rate, but managed just two doubles among his 27 hits for the season.
A final Tigers prospect playing in the Dominican is reliever Paul Voelker. The 25-year-old was the Tigers tenth round pick back in 2014, and has continued to hold a little intrigue as a future reliever candidate. He stumbled out of the gate with the Erie SeaWolves last April, and was then suspended 50 games for using an illegal stimulant. Not an auspicious start to the season.
However, Voelker flipped the script once he returned, and spent all of July and August mowing down hitters for the SeaWolves. By season’s end, he’d spun four good innings for the Toledo Mud Hens as well, and overall posted a 2.00 ERA across three levels. 40 strikeouts, nine walks, over 36 innings of work. The bulk of it in Erie. With a light summer workload due to the suspension, he was an obvious candidate to play winter ball.
So far, Voelker has appeared in 12 games for Leones del Escogido and collected six saves. His ERA is 1.54, with 11 strikeouts to three walks. At 25, Voelker is probably pretty close to a finished product. Whether he can hang in the majors is a wide open question, but he probably has a shot to get there in 2018.
#Tigers Paul Voelker picked up his first DWL postseason win tonight, tossing 2 scoreless ahead of Fernando Rodney for the Leones del Escogido.— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) January 5, 2018
Fernando...well, his line was a little different: 1 H, 3 R (3 ER), 4 BB, 4 batters.
In the end, short season numbers don’t mean a whole lot, but Paredes has sustained a bit of buzz this winter, and that’s a nice sign. Candelario is still pretty good, while Alcantara still looks like a future glove-only utilityman at best. Voelker has a very important season ahead as he looks to put the suspension behind him and make a push to the major league level. But with most of the
Midwest northern hemisphere locked in winter’s hellish death grip, it’s also just good to remember that it’s sunny and warm somewhere and baseball is still being played by young Tigers working to improve.