Paredes still settling in at SS in loss to Sox

June 13th, 2021

Tigers general manager Al Avila was running down his list of long-term options at shortstop Friday afternoon when he got to just-promoted infielder .

“I knew it was coming,” Avila said with a smile. “It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.”

Two games in, it doesn’t look entirely crazy, but it doesn’t make the Tigers’ future at short any more certain. His first two starts there have seen mixed results, from a deft play on a hard-hit bouncer Friday to an early error Saturday as part of a three-run first inning in a 15-2 loss to the White Sox at Comerica Park.

The look at Paredes at his original position as a pro has been one of the few things the Tigers have gained from this series, which included a disastrous outing Saturday that saw starter José Ureña, Daniel Norris, Beau Burrows and Alex Lange combine for just six innings.

The Tigers called up Paredes on Tuesday to help fill in at third base while Jeimer Candelario was away on the bereavement list. But with Harold Castro returning from a hand injury and the Tigers looking for offense, manager A.J. Hinch -- whose willingness to try Paredes around the infield was a recurring theme of Spring Training -- got creative.

“We want to continue to give him a look,” Hinch said. “The fact that he had played [shortstop] in Triple-A, and the favorable reviews that came from it, made me feel pretty comfortable with it.”

Paredes was a shortstop in the Cubs’ system when the Tigers acquired him in July 2017 along with Candelario in the trade for Alex Avila and Justin Wilson. While Paredes handled the spot well at the Class A level, his size at age 18 suggested he wouldn’t stay there for long.

Paredes played all over the infield at High-A Bradenton in 2018, then moved primarily to third when he advanced to Double-A Erie. Even so, he kept getting occasional starts at short to stay fresh, a trend that continued when he reached Triple-A Toledo this season. He actually played more shortstop than third base over his final two weeks in Toledo.

At the Major League level, the first test for Paredes came on Friday from his White Sox counterpart, Tim Anderson, whose grounder leading off the third inning had a 101.6 mph exit velocity and a high hop once it hit the infield dirt. Paredes left his feet to knock the ball down, then fired an 85 mph throw across the infield for the out. An inning later, Paredes had a quick, accurate turn to second base for a double play on the speedy Adam Engel. He also was part of the 9-6-3-5-1-4 rundown that retired Engel in the sixth inning.

This pretty much fits the profile on Paredes at short. While his body frame might cost him a step in his range, he has the instincts and arm to make the plays on balls he reaches. With infield shifts, analytics and the research put into positioning, that range is less meaningful than it was a few years ago.

Paredes’ error Saturday came on a José Abreu ground ball with a 107.1 mph exit velocity. Abreu was one of five consecutive White Sox batters to reach base to begin the game. The first four batters also reached base safely in the second inning, setting up Ureña’s exit.

Paredes is the fifth player the Tigers have used at shortstop this season. That in itself isn’t a surprise given how much value Hinch has placed on versatility, but shortstop was an infield position that wasn’t going to be shuffled entering the season. The left side of Detroit’s infield was supposed to be stable with Willi Castro at short and Candelario at third.

The Tigers hoped that regular playing time would help Castro work through the defensive questions he faced last season and again in Spring Training, particularly on his throws. By the end of April, however, the issues were too much; the Tigers shifted Castro to second and returned Niko Goodrum to short, where he was a Gold Glove finalist last year.

By the end of May, Goodrum, too, had a spat of errors. Since then, the Tigers have been mixing and matching at short, which led to Friday’s question for Avila.

“There’s other guys, too, in the Minor Leagues, that are coming up that could fill that gap,” Avila said. “At the end of the day, we might even look into the free agent market. You never know. Or we could make a trade. But that’s obviously a good question, because it’s a position that we’re looking at as we move forward into next year, and the following year. Who’s going to be that guy? Do we have him here? Do we have to go outside of the organization? And so, that’s a situation right now that we’re thinking about.”