AJ Hinch: Tigers giving Isaac Paredes a true shot at winning big-league spot

Chris McCosky, The Detroit News
·5 min read

Mar. 3—LAKELAND, Fla. — Tigers manager AJ Hinch said it earlier in camp, for some young players, their development might be better served keeping them in the big leagues rather than sending them back to Triple A.

Clearly, he thinks 22-year-old Isaac Paredes fits that description.

"He can play," Hinch said Wednesday morning. "I'm not certain Triple A is the best for his development. I think with the adjustment he's going to have to make — with contact being the 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."

In other words, there might not be much left for Paredes to prove offensively against Triple-A pitching.

It also doesn't hurt, Hinch said, to dangle that particular carrot in front of a player who got his first taste of the big leagues last season and is coming off a triumphant winter league performance in Mexico.

"I want him to play with a sense of urgency and a chance to make the team." Hinch said. "I think he can help us. He's a good player coming off a productive, confidence-boosting winter season — who knows, maybe he can rise to this challenge of playing in the big leagues, rather than just being comfortable in Triple A."

Baseball announced Tuesday night the Triple-A season would be pushed back a month, and that the alternate site system it used last year would again be in place. Meaning, guys on the roster bubble who don't break with the club will start the season working out and playing intrasquad games in Toledo.

"I don't know how many guys are going to be there or what the situation is going to be," Hinch said. "But whatever we have to do to get the Major League season off and running in a positive and healthy way is necessary.

"The difficulty is, we're going to have players who aren't playing games and they're doing it in Toledo. April weather in Toledo is pretty dicey. We'll do our best to prepare them."

That little snag in the process, Hinch said, won't have any bearing on whether Paredes makes the club or not.

"We are preaching work habits and winning ways and trying to take our best team forward," Hinch said. "It would be doing a disservice to a lot of guys in that clubhouse if me or Al (Avila, general manager) or anybody in the organization simply put a guy on the team because there's no Triple-A games in April."

Paredes has been in Lakeland for more than a week, but he's had to work out on his own until he passed all his COVID-19 intake testing. That happened on Monday and he was scheduled to play in his first game here at Joker Marchant Stadium on Wednesday.

He is well aware of his opportunity.

"I have prepared myself mentally to compete," he said through Tigers bilingual interpreter Carlos Guillen. "It is always a competition. Everyone is trying to make the roster...I'm happy he is going to give me that opportunity, give me a chance to play. And I'm going to show him that I can make the team.

"I feel good that he is giving me a lot of trust."

There are a couple of ways this could shake out for Paredes, presuming that he produces.

First base remains an open question for the Tigers, and the how it gets solved could impact how Paredes is used. Renato Nunez, who hit 31 home runs for the Orioles two years ago, is a non-roster invitee who has yet to be cleared to participate in camp (testing).

If Nunez shows he's not a total liability defensively at first base, he's got the inside track for that spot. That would allow the Tigers to play Jeimer Candelario at third. That possible outcome is why the Tigers will get Paredes, who was signed into pro ball as a shortstop, some work at second base.

"He doesn't have to be perfect this spring to make our team," Hinch said. "We do want to move him between second and third and give him a couple of different looks to be an option to make the team."

Paredes is being tutored at second base by Ramon Santiago and Hall of Famer Alan Trammell. He said Niko Goodrum has also been helpful showing him the footwork intricacies involved in making the pivot on double plays from second base.

"I trust in myself," Paredes said. "I worked this offseason on my agility and improving the range that I already had...The coaches have helped me a lot. With their help, I know I will learn quick how to play second base."

Still, keeping Paredes as a back-up third baseman and second baseman seems problematic, given the infrequency of at-bats he'd get in that role and that Goodrum, Harold Castro and Greg Garcia are all vying for infield utility spots — Goodrum and Castro bring the added versatility of being able to play outfield.

But if Nunez doesn't win the first base job, that would bump Paredes into the third base spot with Candelario playing first.

"He can be a complete player," Hinch said. "We are always watching what he can do with the bat, but what he can do defensively, as well. I know he has a lot of confidence and he knows the opportunity in front of him to make the team is real.

"He has to show that he's worthy of being on our opening day roster."

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky