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Isaac Paredes, Matt Manning are your Bless You Boys minor league players of the year

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The BYB staff overwhelmingly picked Paredes and Manning over Christin Stewart and Matt Hall.

Minor League Baseball: Florida State League-All Star Game Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Christin Stewart and Matt Hall were named the Detroit Tigersminor league player and pitcher of the year on Thursday. Both players had strong seasons, and are deservedly playing in the major leagues now because of their accomplishments in the minors. Early returns on Stewart at the MLB level look solid, as already he has three hits and three walks in just a few games of action (Hall has yet to make his major league debut).

But we disagree. The Bless You Boys staff voted shortstop Isaac Paredes and righthander Matt Manning as our Tigers minor league player and pitcher of the year. Both players received near-unanimous consideration, with only a couple of votes for Hall on the pitcher side. Outfielder Daz Cameron was also mentioned, but Paredes was our clear winner.

The biggest reason Paredes received so much attention in our vote is because of his age. Still only 19, Paredes hit .259/.338/.455 with 12 home runs in 347 plate appearances at High-A Lakeland to open the year. While the average and on-base percentage seem a bit low, the Florida State League is rather pitcher-friendly; his .196 isolated power (ISO) and 126 wRC+ more accurately reflect his overall production — from a middle infielder, no less.

He was promoted to Double-A Erie midseason, where he hit .321/.406/.458 with 12 extra-base hits in 39 games. He was one of four teenagers to play in the Double-A Eastern League this year, and two — Juan Soto and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — are household names. Paredes may eventually move away from shortstop, but he still projects as an above-average hitter at either second or third base.

Meanwhile, Manning had the best year anyone could have hoped for in his first full season of pro ball. He logged 117 23 innings in 22 starts across three levels, struck out 154 hitters with a reasonable walk rate, and generally looked overpowering against hitters in the low minors. Even his two starts at Double-A Erie drew rave reviews, with 13 strikeouts in 10 23 innings. He and Beau Burrows came to Detroit following their Double-A season to throw a side session with the Tigers coaching staff.

While Manning’s raw numbers weren’t quite as impressive as Hall’s, with an ERA that climbed at each level he moved up to, his success likely means much more for the Tigers’ future than Hall’s. Manning was a high-risk prospect when drafted out of high school in 2016, but his quick ascent up the minor league ladder has significantly raised his floor as a prospect. He may still end up in the bullpen if he can’t ever sort out his mechanics, but it’s a near-certainty he at least gets that shot at the major league level. We couldn’t say that at this time last year.

But enough from me. Here’s what the rest of the staff had to say.

Cameron: Jacob Robson is the hitter of the year because he gets on base and Matt Manning is the pitcher of the year because he strikes out batters. Need more guys like that.

Brandon: I’m going with Isaac Paredes, who has adapted to Double-A and continued to wreck shop and show solid plate discipline as a 19-year-old. Gotta go Manning as pitcher of the year for the huge strides he took this season.

Patrick: Matt Hall, between Erie and Toledo pitched 108 innings with a 1.99 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 130 strikeouts and 43 walks, while holding hitters to a .191 batting average. He does not have the hype or the upside of the fab five, but he has had a solid season across two levels and earned a call up to Detroit. Since he was drafted in2015, he will be Rule 5 eligible and should be on the 40 man roster.

Rob: Player?

Patrick: Isaac Paredes is the youngest player in the Eastern league at age 19, but he has been impressive. After earning a mid season promotion from Lakeland, he has been red hot, posting a .330 batting average, .416 on base percentage, and .886 OPS. He may not stick at shortstop, and has been moved around since the Tigers acquired Willi Castro, but Paredes looks like he has a future in major league baseball, that could start sooner than expected.

Chris: Isaac Paredes and Matt Manning. Look at what they’ve been able to accomplish this season, particularly what Paredes has done at only 19, and you’ll see why.

Kenon, who talks a lot: What Isaac Paredes did as a teenager in the Florida State League is once-per-decade type stuff. Twelve homers in 84 games down there, where fly balls go to die on the warning track, is pretty remarkable. Furthermore, he’s carrying an .886 OPS in 35 games at the AA level. He doesn’t strike out much, walks plenty, barrels baseballs, and has translated raw power into game power faster than expected. His bat should play as a Major Leaguer starting with his age 21 season, and that’s pretty incredible. As for pitchers, I would have never guessed this back in April or early May, but it has to go to Matt Manning. He looks like a pitcher now, and I couldn’t say that early in the season. He was just a guy throwing really hard then. His strike-throwing has improved tremendously, to the point where now he can start thinking about sequencing and setting hitters up, as opposed to just trying to get the ball over the plate. The curve has gone from an inconsistent pitch that flashes plus to a devastating out-pitch that is almost always plus and sometimes double-plus. Even the change-up has gotten rave reviews on its recent usage and effectiveness. If Casey Mize is our #1 pitching prospect, and he is, Matt Manning has to be 1A at this point.

Zane: I will echo everybody saying Paredes and Manning, and for the same reasons. Paredes has me particularly excited, as him, Vlad Guerrero Jr, and Juan Soto were the only three teenagers to play in the Eastern League this year [Ed.: One more teen made the jump to Double-A late in the year]. Manning has been dominant these past couple of months and has moved above 11 strikeouts per nine innings. The chances of a stacked club control rotation are looking stronger than ever, and in a league that primarily builds around hitting prospects (even though pitchers often draw the bigger paychecks), I like Detroit’s approach. Kudos to Al Avila to building around the ballpark.

Peter: Paredes and Manning, for every reason said above. Seriously I can’t add anything new.