Jimmy Paredes has never been nearly this good at the major league level. Right now, he has a batting line of .363/.386/.675 (193 wRC+) in 83 plate appearances. He’s never received more than 179 plate appearances in any single season, and he has a career batting line of .259/.294/.383 (85 wRC+). But that hasn’t mattered, as he’s been a vital cog in the Orioles’ offensive attack this season.
In mid-February 2014, the Orioles selected Paredes off of waivers from the Miami Marlins. A couple of days later, the Kansas City Royals selected Paredes off of waivers from the O’s. But Paredes stayed on the O’s radar, and they purchased him from the Royals in late July. And in 55 plate appearances in an Orioles uniform last season, Paredes was useful, posting a .302/.327/.491 batting line.
It’s clear that Paredes is going to stay in the lineup if he continues to hit. For the most part, he’s going to be in the lineup as the team’s designated hitter. Paredes has played the most innings at third base, but the Orioles don’t need anyone else at third base if Manny Machado is healthy. Paredes also generally rates as a poor defender in the field: Both FanGraphs’ Ultimate Zone Rating and Baseball-Reference.com’s Defensive Runs Saves data have Paredes as a negative defender at third base, second base and the outfield. The Orioles have also opted to use Steve Pearce over Paredes at second base, where Pearce had never played before this season.
So if Paredes, 26, is going to contribute for the O’s, it’s going to have to come at the plate. And the question isn’t really whether Paredes can continue to produce at this impressive pace, because he can’t. He is currently sporting a .421 batting average on balls in play (career .339) and is hitting line drives on nearly 30 percent of the balls he puts in play (career 21 percent). A quarter of his fly balls have left the ballpark (career 10 percent), and he has yet to hit an infield fly ball (career 12 percent). He’s also swinging at more pitches both inside and outside of the strike zone while making less contact on both. So far, that lack of plate discipline hasn’t mattered. But it will when some of the line drives dissipate and hits stop dropping in as frequently.
But that doesn’t mean Paredes can’t still be a useful bat, and perhaps he’s made some worthwhile changes at the plate. Paredes trained with Robinson Cano in the offseason, and apparently Cano gave him some pretty simple advice: “He told me to see the ball and look for a good pitch you can drive. He said, ‘Don’t swing at bad pitches. Don’t swing at the pitcher’s best pitch.’” Paredes hasn’t followed the swing at bad pitches part, necessarily, but he has been driving the ball. Paredes has already hit five home runs; before this season, he hit five combined in parts of four major league seasons.
Buck Showalter has seen an improvement in Paredes’s approach: “He’s not just up there whaling. He sits on pitches. You try to pitch him just one way, he’ll sit on it. I’ve seen that about him. He’s not just up there. He’s got a plan. You can tell. He’ll sit on a breaking ball or he’ll look at a certain part of the zone guys are trying to pound him in.” Maybe that’s something a manager says when a player is hitting well. Or maybe it’s something else.
Paredes has been pulling the ball with more power this season. When comparing his spray chart from this season to his previous seasons, you may notice a few changes. He isn’t hitting the ball on the ground much to the left side of the infield much this season. He is still hitting to the opposite field, but it’s mostly been in the air. He’s also hitting the ball deeper to both right and right-center field.
Random seasons happen. Sometimes players turn out to be helpful when you never would have figured a team would have to rely upon them. And that has happened a decent amount with the Orioles these past few years. That doesn’t mean Paredes has completely revamped his career and will be anything close to this type of hitter the rest of this season and beyond. But he could certainly be a competent designated hitter for a while, and maybe even more than that.
Matt Kremnitzer blogs about the Orioles at Camden Depot. Follow him on Twitter: @mattkremnitzer. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.