Paredes 'very deserving' of first All-Star Game selection

July 7th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- When the Rays acquired from the Tigers a few days before Opening Day in 2022, they knew they were getting a talented young hitter with untapped power potential.

They wound up with an All-Star.

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Paredes will represent the Rays in the All-Star Game on July 16 at Globe Life Field, the same place he found out Sunday morning that he had earned a spot on the American League roster. After improving each of the past two years with Tampa Bay, the 25-year-old third baseman has taken another step forward this season to become a first-time All-Star.

“It was definitely a dream, but I never thought that it would actually come to reality,” Paredes said with a smile through interpreter Manny Navarro.

Paredes was placed on the All-Star Game roster as a choice of the Commissioner’s Office, which fills out both squads after taking fan and player elections into account. He learned the news during a pregame meeting in Texas’ visitors’ clubhouse on Sunday morning.

Manager Kevin Cash called Rays players and staff together to talk to the whole group about the schedule and logistics around the All-Star break. Paredes said he “really wasn’t paying too much attention” at first, then Cash addressed Paredes by name.

“I kidded with him that I know he wanted to get back to Mexico for the break,” Cash said. “‘You can do that, but you've got to stop in Dallas for a couple of days first.’”

“Once he said my name,” Paredes added, “I kind of felt it in my chest a little bit more.”

Shy by nature and never one to seek the spotlight, Paredes briefly spoke to the team in Spanish at the request of bench coach Rodney Linares. He then called his mother, Gloria, who still lives in his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico.

Paredes said they were both in tears after learning of the honor, and he’s excited to share the All-Star celebration with her, his baby daughter, Susuki, and six or seven other family members who will be in attendance. Standing in the ballpark where he’ll soon play alongside the game’s top players, with reminders of the coming All-Star Game everywhere you look, he couldn’t help but think ahead a bit.

“You can just imagine everything,” Paredes said. “We're already [in Texas], so you can imagine the scene of the All-Star Game, whether I'm playing third base or having an at-bat and imagine all the good things.”

Paredes has been the Rays’ best and most consistent position player so far this season, getting off to a strong start while several other key hitters were injured or slumping. He leads the team in home runs (14), RBIs (47) and OPS (.820), and he is tied for the team lead in doubles (17) while ranking second in walks (38).

“For a young player, he knows himself and what makes him elite in the batter's box as well as anybody in baseball,” Cash said. “You don't see him try to alter his approach too much. You don't see him trying to chase what the pitcher is trying to do to him. He knows that [he should] get the ball in the air and pull it, and he's really good at it.”

The Rays expected Paredes to hit for average and get on base when they traded Austin Meadows to get him, but even they have been pleasantly surprised by his power. He hit 20 homers in 2022, albeit with a .205 average. Then he went deep 31 times while driving in 98 runs last year, boosting his OPS from .740 to .840.

He’s done it all this season, continuing to pull home runs down the left-field line while also tapping into a two-strike approach that’s bumped up his batting average.

“I think the discipline is what makes him the hitter he is -- the swing decisions he makes. He swings at strikes and takes balls,” hitting coach Chad Mottola said earlier this season. “It’s easy to talk about, but that’s what he does. He gets deeper in counts. He takes his chances early, and if he swings and misses, he has the ability to back the ball up and get the base hit.”

Combining the contact ability he showed in Detroit with the pull-side power the Rays helped him unlock, Paredes has developed into a complete hitter -- and a worthy All-Star.

“Huge congrats to Isaac,” Cash said. “I think he's very deserving.”