Paredes wins batting title in winter league

Tigers' No. 6 prospect hit .379 in the Mexican Pacific League

January 4th, 2021

remains a rookie in Major League Baseball, but he’s a veteran in winter ball. The Tigers prospect used his experience in the big leagues last year to reach a new level in his native Mexico this offseason, one that just might open the door again for him in Detroit.

The Mexican Pacific League wrapped up its regular season over the weekend, and the 21-year-old Paredes ran away with the batting title. His .379 average (55-for-145) for Mazatlan topped his closest competition by 26 points, the same margin by which his 1.060 OPS led the league. His 17 doubles also topped all hitters.

Paredes ranks sixth on the Tigers' Top 30 Prospects list, per MLB Pipeline. He’s no stranger to winter ball, having played in his native Mexico every offseason since 2017. His experience there against older pitchers who rely more on movement than velocity honed an advanced approach at the plate that helped him climb through the Tigers' farm system ever since his arrival from the Cubs in the Alex Avila/Justin Wilson trade of 2017. But he's never hit like this, save for an abbreviated 15-game stint as a teenager three winters ago.

Paredes put up numbers in Mexico that represent his potential in the Majors, as a tough at-bat with some pop but also a veteran’s eye at the plate. Just as impressive as the average, Paredes drew more than twice as many walks (27) as strikeouts (12), which helped him produce a league-best .480 on-base percentage. He even was a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases, equaling his career high from Minor League ball.

That’s the type of hitter that impressed coaches and scouts at Double-A Erie in 2019, putting him in line for a promotion to Triple-A Toledo before the COVID pandemic led to the cancellation of the Minor League season. Paredes made an impression on Tigers management in Spring Training and again in Summer Camp, and he eventually earned his first callup in mid-August.

Paredes kept a disciplined approach at the plate for his first week of the regular season, and he celebrated a grand slam in Cleveland for his first Major League home run. Once teams scouted him and adjusted, he struggled, batting .203 in September to finish at .220 for the season with six RBIs, a .568 OPS and more strikeouts (24) than hits (22). He struggled particularly against breaking pitches, with a .107 average and a 29.2 percent whiff rate against those offerings, according to Baseball Savant. Still, his 24.8 percent chase rate on all pitches outside the strike zone was lower than the MLB average, and his 95.4 percent contact rate on pitches in the zone was well above average. Paredes’ winter ball performance suggests he has made adjustments and built off those encouraging signs.

The Tigers are expected to look for help at one of the infield corners and have Jeimer Candelario play the other, most likely third base. Still, new manager A.J. Hinch’s preference of positional flexibility could create an opportunity; Paredes played third and shortstop on his way up the farm system, and he has played second base on occasion. If Detroit focuses its offensive upgrades in the outfield, Paredes could have a chance to compete for a spot in the infield.