I ran across the perfect way to describe Jimmy Paredes' current status in the Astros' future plans while perusing TCB comments a while back.
"He's a square peg in a round hole."
I can't remember who I should credit here, but it's the perfect description of Paredes and how he fits in with the Astros this year and in the next few. Hint: He really doesn't.
Jimmy Paredes was acquired along with Mark Melancon from the Yankees in the First Great Wade Exchange of 2010. Wade sent a then-declining Lance Berkman to the Yankees. One part of the deal was pitcher Mark Melancon, who had a really solid 2011 and later netted Jed Lowrie, who netted Carter, Stassi and Peacock. Looks pretty good there. The other half of this deal, however, is still very much unknown.
Paredes took over third base the next summer at age 22 after Chris Johnson started to slump. The results were surprisingly good. Paredes posted a .286/.320/.393 slash line (.713 OPS) in 168 at-bats. He homered twice and drove in 18 runs, and generally looked pretty comfortable at the plate. Although it was a small sample, it was encouraging to see a guy who was obviously rushed from AA hold his own against major league pitching.
There were still some obvious flaws to Paredes' game, even in that short stint in Houston. He only walked 9 times in 179 plate appearances, and struck out at a whopping 26% rate. At third base, he made 5 errors in 46 games with a below average UZR of -2.3.
Nothing has really changed in terms of Paredes' struggles in his rookie stint, but to come to this conclusion I'll have to reference his minor league stats. Jimmy had 82 plate appearances last year and posted a .189/.244/.230 line He didn't hit well, but its far too small a sample size to draw any real conclusions from.
Before the call-up, Paredes performed well in Oklahoma City. In 536 PAs, he hit .318/.348/.377. He also stole 37 bases, showing off the base-stealing ability he's had for his career, and an overall batting line that looked like it would eventually play well in the majors, though he didn't carry over that success in Houston.
Paredes was among the cuts from major league camp last week, which wasn't much of a surprise. First and foremost, he doesn't really have a position. Paredes started his career as a second baseman, then was switched back and forth from third.
Last summer, the Astros moved him to the outfield, a switch made because Jose Altuve entrenched himself as the starter. The move reportedly didn't go well for Paredes, though he'll be playing in the outfield in Oklahoma City to start the year.
The second thing holding Paredes back is his inability to adapt to major league pitching. Even though he performed well in his first taste of the majors, he put up those ugly strikeout and walk percentages. Those numbers weren't any better in his even shorter time last year (his walk rate increased to 7.3%, but again, small sample size).
Interestingly, Paredes has only posted one minor league season with a strikeout percentage of over 20%, so he's shown good plate discipline in the minors, though his walk rate has always been low. There's not a lot to prove for Paredes in the minors after posting a solid season in AAA, so if he gets another extended shot at the majors he must make the most of it at the plate.
Paredes simply needs more major league at-bats to determine if he can hold his own in the majors. He won't ever walk much, but his raw ability and athleticism that was so enticing when Ed Wade traded for him is still there. He can steal bases and has hit for good averages in the minors, but his lack of a position could kill any chance of him landing the starting at-bats he needs to show a major league team what he can do.
His future looks to be somewhere in the outfield; second base is occupied by Altuve and not far behind him, Delino Deshields Jr., while the slick-gloved Matt Dominguez is a more valuable option at third. His name was thrown around as a trade chip at one point, but he wouldn't net anything of significant value if traded by himself.
He's only 24, but Paredes needs to show the Astros that he can become a piece of the future puzzle at the major league level, or he'll fall behind the rest of the upcoming talent from the minor league levels.