I’m a cruise guy. The all-you-can-eat buffet. Mmmmmmm. Yes, I’m 230 pounds of Grade A (sian) fatness. Walking the deck with the salty ocean breeze tickling the pores of my skin while in the middle of the ocean is nurturing. Playing the soft poker games in the casino is heavenly. In this COVID environment, though, not so much. Regardless, cruises are not for everyone. My parents despise them because they feel constricted. I get it. I no longer drink but many consume the occasional adult beverage once, twice….sheeiitt….Who am I kidding? That’s all they do on a cruise. That is heaven for them. To each their own. Now, who is their God? The bartender, of course, and there was no more inviting bartender than Isaac on the Love Boat. Yes, I’m an old but it was a popular show in my day. He’d chat, mix up the concoction to take you from Point A to Z, then send you on your way. Isaac Paredes of the Tampa Bay Rays may not be chatting fantasy nerds up, but he’s definitely provided a hypnotizing concoction that has gotten many to fall in love and scamper to jump on his boat. He was added in 26.6% of ESPN leagues. What kind of boat is actually being boarded?
Paredes is 23 years old, 5’11, 213 pounds and bats from the right side. He signed with the Cubs as an international free agent back in 2015. Two years later, he was traded to the Tigers and then shipped to the Rays earlier this year for Austin Meadows.
Throughout his minor league career, he showed excellent plate discipline. The strikeout rate was in the teens while the walk rate increased from 7% in rookie ball to 17.8% in Triple-A last season. The ISO never exceeded .200 until this season, though. That number was in the .130 range with a few blips in the .190 area. The batting average was all over the map with a low of .217 to a high of .321.
In 2021 with the Tigers, Paredes received 85 plate appearances and put up a .208/.306/.319 slash with one home run. The ISO was .111 but not all was bad. The BABIP was only .226 while the walk rate was 11.8% and the strikeout rate was 12.9%.
So far in 112 plate appearances this season, he is slashing .248/.313/.594 with a .347 ISO!!! The walk rate is 8% while the strikeout rate is 14.3%. The BABIP is only .197 but that’s what happens when 10 of his 25 hits are home runs.
Let’s dig in.
The average exit velocity is 87.1 mph while the max is at 110.4. In Detroit, those numbers were 85.5 and 106.4 respectively. The launch angle is similar to his time in Detroit at 17.3. He’s obviously barreling more balls and the hard hit rate is a whopping 14% higher.
He is hitting more ground balls and fly balls than during his time in Detroit, which means that the line drive rate is down by 10%. I view that as a Tampa Bay Rays organizational thing. Shoot for the tails and eschew the middle.
In Detroit, he pulled the ball 47.6% of the time. Now, that number is at 53.5%. Not shockingly, all of his home runs have been to left field. The HR/FB is at 23.8%, compared to 3.7% in Detroit.
While in Detroit, he struggled with both fastballs and sliders. So far this season, he’s mashing both pitches. He’s slugging .550 against fastballs and .609 against sliders. Last season, those numbers were .182 and .231 respectively.
Looking at the plate discipline numbers, things look more heavenly than the soft poker games on cruise ship casinos. Sure, the chase and swinging strike rates have increased, but they are still low at 29.5% for O-Swing and 6.2% for SwStr. The contact rate in the strike zone has increased from 89.2% to 92%.
There are no surprises when looking at the heat maps for Paredes. He’s crushing everything from inside to middle of the zone. Six of his home runs have come on pitches in the middle with the other four have been up and in.
The natural thing is for pitchers to start attacking the outer portions of the zone. Make him prove that he has oppo power. The thing is, Paredes is such a patient hitter and knows the strike zone, so he will continue to get pitches to hit in favorable counts. And pitchers will come inside to keep him honest but I think those will be fewer and further between until Paredes proves that he can cause damage on pitches away. Here are the ISO numbers in the outer portions of the zone: .000, .000, .100, .000, and .000.
The .347 ISO is currently unsustainable and adjustments will be made. With his pull happy ways and expected adjustments by pitchers, I’m inclined to face Paredes from a power perspective. Will it be Titanic-esque? Naw, I don’t think so, as the profile is too solid. He’s going to hit his share of home runs but many will be disappointed me thinks since they won’t be as voluminous going forward.