All-Star Selection Could Be First Of Many For Tampa Bay Rays’ Isaac Paredes

As if adding an exclamation point to his all-star selection, Isaac Paredes drilled a three-run homer in his first at-bat since being selected. The fact he went deep in the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Yankees on Tuesday night only added to the moment.

Paredes’ home run swing has become a familiar sight at Tropicana Field and elsewhere around Major League Baseball. He has a team-leading 15 homers this season while also pacing the club with 50 RBI and an .830 OPS. He is a deserving first-time all-star who is looking forward to the experience in Arlington.

“It is a very good feeling and something that you play for,” said the 25-year-old third baseman. “I am hoping to keep my emotions under control and enjoy the moment when I am there.”

Paredes played in 57 games over the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the Tigers and hit only two homers in 172 at-bats. Tampa Bay acquired him before Opening Day 2022 in exchange for Austin Meadows, who was coming off a season in which he hit 27 home runs and drove in 106.

“It was a big change,” he said, of being dealt. “It gave me a lot of confidence and allowed me to be the type of player I can be.”

Paredes, who began the 2022 campaign at Triple-A Durham and went up and down before sticking with the Rays in mid-May, showed much power in hitting 20 homers in 111 games. His offensive output has only increased as went deep 31 times last season while driving in 98 runs.

“Did we know the power was going to be there?” said manager Kevin Cash. “Probably not. We knew we were getting a young player that had a lot of hitting ability, and the power has developed over time. I think the most impressive thing is the way that his mentality has developed in knowing who he is and going out there and sticking to the game plan and being really consistent with his offensive approach.”

It was Cash who broke the good news of the all-star selection in the confines of the visiting clubhouse in, ironically, Arlington last Sunday.

“There was a lot of emotion,” said the appreciative Paredes, who grew up admiring the play of fellow Mexican and former slugging third baseman Vinny Castilla. “Cash told us in front of everyone and it is something you try to (emotionally) control.”

The Rays have long emphasized versatility, which is something Paredes offered from the time he stepped on a professional ballfield. Signed by Cubs in 2015 and dealt to Detroit in 2017, he played mostly at shortstop in his first three seasons in the minors before spending the of bulk of his time at third while still playing at short and occasionally at second.

Paredes primarily played at second and third while getting some time at first in his initial season with the Rays. Since the start of the 2023, he has largely taken up residence at the hot corner and this season has a .973 fielding percentage in 73 games (through July 10), which is good for third in MLB. Paredes has occasionally shifted across the diamond to spell Yandy Diaz at first, and though he has not played much at second this year, he played 43 games at the position in 2022 and 14 last season while combining to make all of one error.

“With late game maneuvers it helps to have that versatility,” said Cash. “He works as hard as any infielder that we have with his pregame routine. I think our defense has gotten better and he has had some more success defensively the past month.”

It is no coincidence that shortstop Taylor Walls returned from injury within the timeframe Cash referenced. Walls has since been vacuuming up most everything that comes his way.

“I think a lot of that coincides with Taylor Walls coming back because he makes a lot of people around him better,” said Cash.

With the job he has done at the plate and in the field, Paredes’ all-star nod is much deserved. It would come as no surprise if it is the first of many given how he continues to develop his game.

“There is a first time for everything,” he said. “This will be the first time for me and it is going to be a learning experience. Just embrace it.”

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