Isaac Paredes was initially seen as a secondary piece when the Detroit Tigers dealt Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Cubs last July. Jeimer Candelario hit the ground running a few weeks later and it was clear that the Tigers had landed a legitimate talent in their new third baseman.
But Paredes continued to draw rave reviews for his bat in August and September, and he is now viewed as the player likely to prove the diamond in the deal. However you view the returns for sluggers like J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, general manager Al Avila robbed the Cubs in their time of need with this trade.
Signed by the Chicago Cubs as a 16-year-old in 2015, the Mexican born Paredes hasn't been on the scene very long. That is doubly true by the standards of a prospect from the international market. His peers are still getting their feet wet in rookie ball. That hasn’t held him back, as Paredes posted solid numbers as an 18-year-old in Single A-ball. He hit .252/.338/.387 in 124 games, a very impressive stat line for a teenager playing in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League.
Just about everyone is smitten with Paredes.
A bat-first shortstop, he is praised for an advanced approach at the plate. So far, Paredes has drawn his fair share of walks as a professional. That eye and strike zone discipline also help him to make a lot of hard contact on good pitches to hit, with a strikeout rate of 16.1 percent as a professional. Paredes drew free passes at a 7.6 percent clip during his stretch with the Low-A South Bend Cubs, and upped that to 9.8 percent after the trade. In my look at him, Paredes drew a full count walk and worked another at-bat to a full count — fouling off three pitches in the process.
Baseball America is the most bullish on Paredes’ hit tool, saying that he was one of the better pure hitters in the Midwest League in 2017. They praised his pitch recognition, and said Paredes has an ability to barrel balls up consistently. After he was dealt to Detroit, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen noted that teams had been asking for Paredes in trade since his performance in the Arizona (Rookie) League in 2016. Those who scout that league the most filed glowing reports about his feel at the plate, painting a portrait of a potentially excellent offensive player.
While Paredes’ time in the Tigers organization has been brief, he made a positive impression on Whitecaps hitting coach Mike Hessman. "For an 18-year-old kid, he has an idea of how his swing works," Hessman said to FanGraphs. "He’s also got a clue — he’s got a game plan — when he steps into the batter’s box. It’s just a small sample size, but we like what we see."
Paredes' strong bat also merited the kind words of 2017 Whitecaps manager Mike Rabelo, since given the skipper's job in Lakeland with the Flying Tigers. "You don’t see him too much swinging at balls out of the zone like you would expect from an 18-year-old guy that has some pop," Rabelo said to MLB.com. "He’s got a pretty good clue when he goes up there. That’s the reason why we traded for him, when he holds that bat in his hands."
Should Paredes continue to develop along his current trajectory, the bat is going to play well in the major leagues someday. The questions revolve around the rest of his game. Thus far, he’s held his own as a defensive shortstop, but his size and only modest athleticism pose questions about his ability to stick at the position in the long run. A throwing arm that draws above average to plus future grades will help mitigate his development as a shortstop, but also suggests that a move to third base or even a corner outfield spot may prove a better home for him as he matures.
Right now, Paredes has roughly average footspeed. In concert with the concerns about his thick build making a move away from shortstop likely, one might also suspect that he’ll lose a little speed as he fills out. None of this is certain, and Paredes thus far draws good marks for his intelligence and commitment. It will probably take serious diet and conditioning work to keep him playing shortstop in the upper levels of the minor leagues, but there’s certainly a chance he can make it work. On the plus side, Paredes growing power and advanced ability to drive the ball in the air means that if a position move is necessary, the bat should play anywhere on the field.
Projected Team: High-A Lakeland Flying Tigers
On paper, Paredes didn’t exactly dominate the Midwest League. He was a modestly above-average hitter. But those numbers don’t even begin to tell the story that his precociousness, peripherals and contact ability do. Don’t be fooled by the numbers, particularly the sluggish finish with West Michigan. A .214 BABIP there, with superb peripherals and plenty of hard contact, argues convincingly that Paredes has mastered the level despite the late season production.
Now 19 years old, look for Paredes to be the Flying Tigers’ starting shortstop in 2018. With further work needed to maintain his skill level at short, and his youth for the level, the Tigers will likely have no reason to rush him this season. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if Paredes was ready to make the jump to Double-A by midseason. The Tigers have themselves a heck of a good young hitter here, and a potential cornerstone for the future.
Video h/t FanGraphs.