When West Michigan manager Mike Rabelo got his first look at Isaac Paredes back on April 7, the conditions were quite different than they are now. For starters, Paredes was a member of South Bend, Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and Rabelo's Opening Day opponent. The 18-year-old shortstop was also just beginning his first full Minor League season.
Paredes has since been traded to the Tigers as part of a deadline deal for reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila, and now Rabelo gets to watch him up-close on a regular basis.
"When I heard about the trade, I remembered him a little bit, but it was 30 degrees back then and that was a long time ago," Rabelo said. "When I got the call the morning after, they said he was coming to us and to expect that his bat was his strong suit. He's definitely been as advertised."
On Tuesday, Paredes did his best to exceed any expectations.
The Tigers' No. 8 prospect went 4-for-6 with two homers and four RBIs to lead West Michigan to a 15-7 win over Lake County at Classic Park. Paredes, who set his season high for hits Tuesday, now has two multi-homer games this year, following a two-homer performance July 7 for South Bend at Dayton.
Gameday box score
"He had six quality at-bats," Rabelo said. "Obviously, there were the two homers, but even his two outs were both solid lineouts. He really barreled the ball every time he stepped up today, and you could see that pretty easily."
Batting fifth as the Whitecaps' designated hitter, Paredes opened with an RBI single in the first inning. The right-handed slugger ripped a two-run homer in the second, taking a 2-2 offering from Captains right-hander Luis Jimenez over the left-field wall. His second homer of the day opened the fourth frame and came on a 1-1 pitch from left-hander Alsis Herrera. He led off the fifth with another single, giving him four hits for the first time since July 19 of last year with the Cubs' Arizona League affiliate.
"His swing is so quick and short," Rabelo said. "It generates a ton of torque for his [5-foot-11] size. His approach is really advanced for an 18-year-old, too. You'd watch him and think he's got the approach of an older player. ... He just doesn't swing at balls, not since I've seen him anyway. He's not going to let you roll over him."
Paredes' performance is just the latest in a string of impressive showings with his new organization. Since making his Whitecaps debut on July 31, he is 15-for-37 (.405) with four homers, one double and 12 RBIs over 10 games. All four of those homers have come in his last six games, and three have come in his last two contests. Paredes has walked more times (four) than he's struck out (two) over 43 plate appearances since joining Rabelo's club.
There's been some pop in Paredes' bat before, but after hitting seven homers over 92 games with South Bend, this latest power jump is a notable one. According to Rabelo, the Whitecaps haven't brought about any big changes -- they just got the slugger at the right time.
"He's just hot," said the West Michigan skipper. "He's got a good bat and plenty of thump in the bat, but it's not like we've changed anything about him. We haven't needed to yet. He's sure been as good as we could have hoped."
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Signed by the Cubs out of the Mexican League for $800,000 back in July 2015, Paredes batted .305/.359/.443 with one homer, three doubles and 14 doubles in 47 games last season in the complex-level Arizona League. He's seen his power make a jump this campaign with 11 homers and 26 doubles in 102 games in the Midwest League. He's played mostly shortstop at both Class A stops with some third base mixed in, and though he has an above-average arm, it's a question going forward about where he can stick as he matures.
For now, he's joined a Whitecaps club that has been arguably the most successful in the Minors. Tuesday's win moves West Michigan's record to 77-34 on the season and 32-12 in the second half, three games ahead of Fort Wayne in the Eastern Division. Double-A Trenton (75-37, .670) is the only full-season club close to matching the Whitecaps' .694 winning percentage.
"In order to win games like we have, a lot of things have to go right," Rabelo said. "We've gone through a lot of players, but we have this motto here of, 'Next man up.' Whoever's here has to throw the ball over the plate, catch the ball when they can, throw it to the right place, hit when we have to. We don't want to beat ourselves. That's it, and we've done a good job of getting out of our own way."
All nine Whitecaps batters had at least one hit Tuesday. Beyond Paredes, shortstop Anthony Pereira went 3-for-6 with a double, an RBI and a run scored, while No. 10 Tigers prospect Derek Hill went 2-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and a walk from the leadoff spot.