Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: Isaac Paredes reaches championship series, ABL returns
Last week, Detroit Tigers left-handed reliever Gregory Soto locked down the Dominican Winter League championship. This week, one of the team's top prospects, Isaac Paredes, gets his chance to hoist a trophy in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.
Paredes, 21, is competing for Naranjeros de Hermosillo — his hometown squad — in the final series. The franchise has 16 titles, most in league history. His opponent is Tomateros de Culiacán.
In Game 1, Paredes made the final out in a 2-1 victory Friday with a nifty pick at third base, along with going 1-for-4 at the plate. On Saturday, he went 2-for-4 (two doubles), but his team took a 6-1 loss.
The third game in the best-of-seven series is scheduled for 9 p.m. Monday.
Ranked by MLB Pipeline as Detroit's No. 6 prospect, Paredes earned the Mexican Pacific Winter League's batting title with a .379 average (55-for-145), four home runs and 26 RBIs, with 27 walks to 12 strikeouts, in 42 regular-season games. He had a 1.060 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Paredes finished in fourth place for MVP. Six players were nominated for the award.
He spent the regular season and first round of the postseason with Venados de Mazatlán, his main club, but was selected by Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the reinforcement draft for the semifinals and championship.
Through Paredes' 14 playoff contests, he is 16-for-53 (.302) with two doubles, one homer, seven RBIs, five walks and one strikeout. He is riding an eight-game hitting streak. Defensively, he has two errors in 22 chances at third base for a .909 fielding percentage.
Paredes made his MLB debut in 2020, hitting .220 in 34 games. He smashed one homer and tossed in six RBIs. If he doesn't break spring training on the active roster, expect him to start 2021 in Triple-A Toledo.
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Australian baseball returns
For 33 days, from Dec. 19 to Jan. 21, a coronavirus outbreak in Sydney, Australia, which led to border and travel restrictions, barred the Sydney Blue Sox from competing in the Australian Baseball League. They played two games — on Dec. 17 and 18 — before the COVID-19 pandemic shut them down.
On Jan. 10, Blue Sox chief executive Adam Dobb released 48-year-old former MLB star Manny Ramirez because of the season's uncertainty and a medical issue. Ramirez played in the majors from 1993-2011.
"This is extremely disappointing for the Sydney Blue Sox, but we owe it to our fans and the other teams to make a decision now," Dobb said in a released statement about Ramirez, the 2004 World Series MVP for the Boston Red Sox. "The level of investment to get him here meant this was never a PR stunt. It was never was our intention to have him NOT participate in the ABL this season."
But the Blue Sox eventually got back to competition, meaning Tigers outfielders Cam Gibson and Jacob Robson have returned. They've played six games this season. Another Tigers outfielder, Ulrich Bojarski, hasn't faced as severe of travel restrictions with the Perth Heat, allowing him to play 15 games.
Gibson is 5-for-21 (.238) with two doubles, three walks and three strikeouts. Robson, 26, is 3-for-20 (.250) with one double, one homer, six RBIs, two walks and five strikeouts.
On Saturday, Robson crushed a three-run homer in the second inning. He drove in his fourth run on a single in the seventh. With Gibson on first base in the bottom of the ninth, Robson flew out to center field to end the 8-6 loss.
Bojarski, 22, has a .191 batting average (9-for-47) for the Heat. Two of his nine hits are doubles, and he has one walk to 19 strikeouts. He reached High-A Lakeland — now West Michigan — in 2019, while Gibson spent that entire year in Double-A Erie.
Robson posted a .267 batting average in 2019 for Toledo across 112 games. He had 21 doubles, three triples, nine home runs and 53 RBIs, drawing 53 walks and striking out 132 times.