Jimmy Paredes has some intriguing offensive tools. It's simply a matter of whether the Houston Astros can find a position for Paredes, possibly use him as a utility player.
The Astros' one All-Star caliber player is second baseman Jose Altuve, the position Paredes has played most of his career.
With Altuve established, the Astros moved Paredes to center field late last season with the RedHawks. His audition in center at times was an adventure. This year, Paredes is playing right field and third base.
“His tools are evident,” said Astros assistant general manager David Stearns. “Whenever you walk into a ballpark his repertoire really stands out because of how exciting a player he can be. The challenge for Jimmy is finding where he's most comfortable playing.”
Obtained in a trade with the Yankees in 2010 as part of the Lance Berkman deal, Paredes hit .318 with Oklahoma City last season. He ranked in the top five in the Pacific Coast League in hits (161), runs (92) and stolen bases (37).
“He was signed as a shortstop, has played second and has now played all three outfield positions,” said RedHawks hitting coach Leon Roberts. “His role could be a super utility guy. He has a ton of offensive skills.”
A career .290 hitter in the minors with 152 stolen bases, Paredes is off to another hot start this season with the RedHawks.
Heading into the opener of an eight-game homestand Thursday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Paredes was hitting .338 with a .385 on-base percentage, four homers, 12 RBIs and four stolen bases.
“My focus is on defense right now,” Paredes said. “I know about hitting. The one thing I'm working on ... is the strike zone discipline, wait on more pitches that I can drive. But my (primary) focus is defense.”
The past nine months, Paredes, 24, has put in a lot of work to add outfield to his resume. His play in right field has been an improvement.
“It was a little hard at first,” Paredes said. “But from last year to right now I've worked hard on watching the ball off the bat. That's helped me a lot. (A year later) I've feel a lot more comfortable.”
Jake Elmore, another second baseman who is trying to carve out a utility role in an attempt to earn a promotion to Houston, said the key to improving defensively at multiple positions is putting in the work.
“The only way to get comfortable at a position is to practice,” Elmore said. “The more you're out there early with people that have been out there the more comfortable you get ... What's good here is (Paredes) can pick people's brains.”
So far the right field/third base experiment has been a success.
“He has the ability to do that, play both infield and outfield,” said RedHawks infield coach Tom Lawless. “He could be a valuable asset to a big league team as a utility guy because he can do a lot of different things. He can run, bunt, drive the baseball and hit home runs. It's just a matter of getting a break.”
It won't be surprising to see the Astros to give tryouts to several RedHawks.
Houston already promoted Brandon Laird, a power-hitting, 25-year-old corner infielder who was stuck in the Yankees system the past three years. Batting third with the Astros, Laird has slammed two homers with five RBIs his first week.
When the Astros lost center fielder Justin Maxwell to a broken hand Tuesday night they promoted RedHawks center fielder, Robbie Grossman, who was projected to spend most of the season in Triple-A but gets an early audition while Maxwell is sidelined.
“Right now we're trying out a couple of different positions,” Stearn said. “The more positions he can play comfortably at the major league level the better chance he's going to have. He understands that. He's open and excited to try as many different avenues as possible to get to the big league level.”