Just prior to the beginning of the 2022 season, the Tampa Bay Rays pulled off a trade that puzzled many in the baseball world. Austin Meadows was coming off of a solid year in which he hit 27 home runs and maintained a 115 OPS+ (15% better than the average MLB batter). Meanwhile, Paredes had seen about 50 games across 2020 and 2021 with little to show for it. The two definitely appeared on different trajectories.
However, nearing the one-year anniversary of the deal, both players are in an interesting spot.
Let’s start with the Tigers. When the Tigers saw this deal, they likely thought it was a no-brainer. Gaining a borderline all-star without losing much, if any, production (depending on whether Paredes would have received another shot in the MLB) seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Meadows was hit with injuries and a bunch of setbacks throughout the season. He was only able to play in 36 games. Hopefully, this year is a bounceback year for him.
Paredes, on the other hand, had a bit of a breakout. I cannot seem to find the article at the moment, but I think I remember seeing that one of the things that intrigued the Rays was a glimmer of Paredes showing more power. He did hit 12 home runs in 75 games in the minor leagues during 2021. Not a great total but good in comparison to his previous numbers. Well, as often seems true of Rays’ trade acquisitions, the power did develop. Leading to 20 home runs, his most in any year. It had to be a bit of relief for the Rays after making such a gutsy deal.
Paredes enters this season having recently turned 24. He is nearing/entering the peak ages for most baseball players (generally, 27 is given as the peak year for a player). This is when most players are in top physical shape and can capitalize on their experience. Of course, it doesn’t always happen. I am curious to see if there is another major progression left for Paredes.
Paredes already has a lot of things going for him. His max exit velocity last season was a personal-best for the majors. This could be a sign of more power in his swing, but it might also be the result of a larger sample size. Additionally, he seems to put together good at-bats. His walk and strikeout rates are both a good bit above league average. He doesn’t chase many pitches and when the pitch is in the zone, he usually makes contact. His defense last year was also rated very well.
The biggest thing holding Paredes back right now seems to be his quality of contact. He puts the ball in play and can definitely get a hold of one. Hitting 20 home runs in a season is no easy feat. However, the majority of his contact last season was below the major league average. He is already doing the hard part (putting the ball in play), now he just needs to square up a few more pitches.
Isaac Paredes has a lot going for him, but the most important factor might be:
He is a young player that is progressing with a team that has a lot of confidence in him.
The Rays have had a lot of success with developing players in the past and, with Paredes hitting 3rd on opening day, I think they believe he will take another big step forward this season. That step might be what the Rays need to win some playoff games this season.
Sources for this article include:
Baseball Reference pages for:
As well as the Baseball Savant page for Isaac Paredes: