Tigers option prospects Paredes, Rogers

March 25th, 2021

A.J. Hinch tried to find a role for . He pushed to take the next step and show he’s Major League ready. The Tigers manager’s work ended up being an investment in the future, but both players will be Mud Hens for the present.

The Tigers optioned Paredes and Rogers, their Nos. 6 and 16 prospects, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline, to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday. Rogers lost out on the backup catching competition to Grayson Greiner, who was told on Thursday that he has made the team.

Non-roster invites Eric Haase and Dustin Garneau, both catchers, will remain with the team through the end of Spring Training, Hinch said.

“If we call it a competition, then we’re going to hold up our end of the bargain and make it be a competition,” Hinch said Thursday. “And Greiner won the backup job. And we feel like the other guys in camp with the infield are ahead of Isaac when it comes to making our club out of spring. So the message to both of them was that the competition didn’t go their way and they’ve got work to do.

“We feel like they’re both going to play for us in the big leagues this season when we need them. We just don’t feel like the right time is Opening Day.”

The 22-year-old Paredes arrived in camp, albeit a bit late, with the momentum of a winter ball batting title in the Mexican Pacific League. His bat was not only fresh, it was productive. His first week of games seemed to reflect that, with two singles and a home run in his first seven at-bats.

Hinch, meanwhile, showed his faith in Paredes by trying him out at positions beyond third base, where he played exclusively during his late-season stretch in Detroit last year. Hinch tried him extensively this spring at second, where the former shortstop’s middle-infield instincts showed no signs of rust.

“He can play,” Hinch said on March 3. “I’m not sure Triple-A is the best for his development, because the adjustments that he’s going to have to make, with his contact being a premium skill that he has -- and his hands are really, really good -- that might have to happen in the big leagues for him to get the full development at the end of his ascent to the big leagues.”

Hinch talked about the possibility of shifting Paredes and Jonathan Schoop between third and second, depending on that day’s pitcher and the opposing lineup, with Jeimer Candelario possibly moving to first over Renato Núñez. However, Paredes’ hot start cooled. He went 1-for-25 with one walk and six strikeouts following his March 10 home run against the Phillies, and he finished at 4-for-32 for the spring.

The fade was a reminder of Paredes’ struggles last September to finish with a .220 average, and he supported the idea that he could use more work on his hitting before he’s ready to make the jump again.

“His defensive awareness is very good. He just struggled with the bat this spring,” Hinch said. “There’s no real rhyme or reason. He’s going to go down and get a little bit more comfortable offensively. We’re just looking for something with a little more consistency. We know he can hit. He’s hit at every level.”

With Paredes and non-roster invite Greg Garcia -- who was also told Thursday he won’t make the team -- out of the mix, the Tigers’ bench decision becomes simpler, with Harold Castro still in a potential utility competition next to Niko Goodrum. But first, the club has to decide who plays first.

If Núñez makes the team, he’ll be the primary first baseman, a decision that hinges as much on his defense as the power bat that drew Detroit to sign him. If the Tigers decide against Núñez, they’ll likely rotate at first with Miguel Cabrera -- who will get a start or two per week at first regardless -- along with Candelario, Goodrum and possibly Castro and Schoop.

On the flip side, if the Tigers carry five outfielders on their 26-man roster to hold onto Rule 5 Draft pick Akil Baddoo, they’ll likely stick with one extra infielder, which would likely be Goodrum.

“We’ll have to wait until the end of camp until we find out how all the pieces get put together,” Hinch said.

While Paredes worked to make Hinch’s decision a tough one, Rogers never showed the offensive progression to make his case. He didn’t need to tear up the Grapefruit League, but he needed to show enough progress at the plate to suggest he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by big league pitching while providing a strong defensive option behind Wilson Ramos.

Rogers batted 3-for-22 with a double and 10 strikeouts this spring, showing some of the same offensive struggles that led the Tigers to keep Rogers in Toledo last season. Add in the possibility of Ramos seeing some time at designated hitter when Cabrera plays first base, and the situation turned against Rogers quickly.

“He knows the strike zone. He generally swings at the right pitches and takes the bad pitches,” Hinch said. “But his contact rate and his kind of one-dimensional style as a hitter, you’ve either got to get really good at it and do some damage or you’ve got to find a way to move the ball back into the field of play and be a more productive all-around hitter.”

Tigers hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and Toledo hitting coach Mike Hessman will develop a day-by-day game plan to work on Rogers’ approach, Hinch said.

Beyond Opening Day, time is becoming more urgent for Rogers to make the jump. Dillon Dingler, Detroit’s No. 7 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, will begin his pro career this year with a chance to become Detroit’s catcher of the future. The Tigers selected him with the first pick of the second round in last year’s MLB Draft.

Quick hits

• Garcia has an opt-out this weekend as part of his Minor League contract. He has left camp for now, Hinch said, presumably weighing his options.

“I’ve raved about him. I still think he’s a big league player,” Hinch said. “But he’s not in the competition anymore.”