LAKELAND, Fla. -- The row of lockers near the far end of the Tigers' clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium reads like a who’s who of Detroit’s vaunted pitching prospects. Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo are in the same corner. Joey Wentz is across from them in
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The row of lockers near the far end of the Tigers' clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium reads like a who’s who of Detroit’s vaunted pitching prospects. Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo are in the same corner. Joey Wentz is across from them in a bank of lockers sitting in the middle of the clubhouse. It’s nearly impossible to take a step without running into an arm on which the Tigers’ future fortunes rest.
Isaac Paredes sits opposite those lockers and generally keeps to himself. There isn’t nearly as much chatter on that side with the barrel-chested infielder, and very little attention so far. And yet, if the Tigers’ rebuilding effort is going to work, they need Paredes to hit it big -- literally.
Paredes was the Tigers’ highest-ranked position prospect by MLB Pipeline until Detroit drafted outfielder Riley Greene in June. Paredes is the Tigers’ highest-ranked position prospect in Major League camp. Unlike last year, he’ll be sitting on Detroit’s doorstep when Spring Training ends and will likely head to Triple-A Toledo.
“The kid’s a player. He’s a baseball player,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s a grinder, and he gets after it. It’ll be fun to watch him here. I don’t want him to try to do too much, but I get excited about watching guys like that.”
If that first part sounds familiar, it’s the way former Tigers manager Jim Leyland described players like Placido Polanco; hitters who weren’t flashy but could contribute to a win every day.
Paredes has hit above his age after the Tigers acquired him in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trade in July 2017, amidst a teenage tear through the Class A Midwest League. After posting 12 home runs in just more than half a season in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League in '18, Paredes moved to Double-A Erie, where he spent the past season and a half.
What excites Tigers officials about Paredes isn’t so much raw power, though his 13 home runs last year put him just outside the Eastern League’s top 10. It’s the combination of power and plate discipline. He rarely chases a pitch out of the strike zone.
While Paredes’ home-run rate has stayed relatively steady in the 10-15 range, his walk-to-strikeout ratio has steadily improved to the point where it was near even at every stop last year. That included Erie (57 walks against 61 strikeouts), the Arizona Fall League (12-13) and winter ball (17-18) in his native Mexico. Only one of those walks was intentional.
“I think it helped me a lot playing in Mexico through this winter,” Paredes said through translator Carlos Guillen. “I’m ready for this.”
Though Paredes will celebrate his 21st birthday on Tuesday, he has an approach beyond his age. And yet, he said, the biggest thing he learned from last year was about catching up with the rest of his life.
“You know what, the most important thing, I have to say, was working on maturity,” Paredes said. “I didn’t do the same things [last year] that I used to do in 2018 or ’17. I didn’t do it anymore. So I was focused on myself getting mature.”
On Paredes’ left arm is a tattoo in Roman numerals, for the birth year of his daughter.
“Right now, I see things, and I have a perspective of things with more responsibility than I had years ago,” he said.
Though Paredes split last season between third base and shortstop in Erie, the Tigers are having him focus this spring on third, where his 5-foot-11, 225-pound frame fits better. He has the arm for both.
Realistically, the bat is the key. If Paredes hits against the older pitching at Triple-A, he could be in Detroit by year’s end.
“I’ve been working on the mindset of taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, just focused on the present day,” he said.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.