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Isaac Paredes’ Rays power surge worth riding in fantasy baseball

Though fantasy managers hope their star players will perform like star players from the beginning of the season to the end, that is often not the case. In fact, it’s unexpected performances from unheralded players that give squads a necessary boost.

Last season, New Jersey native and St. John’s alum Frank Schwindel hit .344 with 13 homers, 40 RBIs, 42 runs and a 1.006 OPS in 55 games from Aug. 3-Oct. 3. His performance undoubtedly helped fantasy managers at the most crucial point in the season.

That, however, was not a sign for the future. It was merely a player showing the very best version of himself.

Enter Isaac Paredes, who hit .215 over his first 57 big league games with the Tigers before being traded to the Rays. Over his first 30 games with Tampa Bay this season, Paredes went 15-for-83 (.181) with five homers, 12 RBIs, 12 runs and .639 OPS.

Paredes’ season changed on June 21 when he went 3-for-4 with three homers and four RBIs against the Yankees. He also homered in his next two games.

From June 21-Tuesday, Paredes went 19-for-51 (.373) with eight homers, 16 RBIs, 11 runs and 1.331 OPS. In that span, he led the majors in homers and slugging percentage (.902), and was tied for the league lead in RBIs (16). He also ranked 12th in average and sixth in runs scored.

Tampa Bay Rays’ Isaac Paredes celebrates a game-winning hit.

Leading the league in anything over a 13-game stretch means about as much as spring training stats, but it is hard to ignore those numbers — and many fantasy managers certainly didn’t. Paredes was the most added position player in ESPN leagues this week, though he’s on fewer than 50 percent of rosters. That means there are skeptics wondering if the 23-year-old is for real.

Paredes always showed a penchant for making contact while not striking out a ton in the minors, hitting .271 and striking out in just 13.4 percent of his at-bats over six seasons. Though he hasn’t be as selective in the majors, the trend has mostly continued as he is striking out in just 17 percent of his at-bats this season and has an 84 percent contact rate (89.5 percent when in the strike zone).

Among players with a minimum of 140 plate appearances, Paredes has the 24th-lowest swinging-strike rate (6.7 percent, the same as Juan Soto), the 12th-best OPS (.902) and seventh-best slugging percentage (.590).

The power, though, is surprising. Paredes displayed average power in the minors (56 homers in 2,209 plate appearances) and hit two big flies in his first 57 big league games. There was no indication he was capable of hitting 13 in 43 games.

Isaac Paredes
Getty Images

Paredes’ average exit velocity (88.2 mph) is, well, average. As of Friday, it ranked 185th among players with a minimum of 100 Batted Ball Events, according to Statcast. His pull rate (51.8 percent) and hard-hit rate (48.2 percent), though, are way up, which helps explain the increased power — players tend to have the most power while pulling the ball. Any guesses as to where in Paredes’ homers have landed? That’s right, they’ve all landed in left or left-center — yup, all of them. In fact, he entered Friday with one — yes, only one — extra-base hit to right field.

Paredes’ HR/FB rate (25.5 percent) is a few percentage points behind sluggers such as Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez, and ranked higher than Mike Trout, Pete Alonso and Shohei Ohtani. Does that sound sustainable? He also is outperforming his expected stats by a wide margin (his expected average is .226 and his expected slugging percentage is .358).

The sudden power outburst put Paredes on the map, and deservingly so. The fact he is eligible at multiple positions in addition to his control in the zone make him an enticing player.

In the end, Roto Rage believes you’re seeing the best version of Paredes. Go along for the ride (or ship him to someone willing to give you a piece that helps your cause), but temper expectations for the future.

Big Hits

Yandy Diaz 1B/3B, Rays

Entered Friday on an 11-game hit streak — going 20-for-41 (.488) with three RBIs, seven runs, nine walks, .580 OBP and 1.239 OPS in that span.

Nico Hoerner 2B/SS, Cubs

Had at least one hit in 13 of his previous 15 games entering Friday — going 23-for-58 (.397) with one homer, seven RBIs, nine runs and .938 OPS.

Shohei Ohtani

Alex Kirilloff OF, Twins

Was 20-for-66 (.303) with three homers, 18 RBIs and .854 OPS in his first 19 games since being recalled. Had 13 RBIs in his past 12 games.

Shohei Ohtani SP, Angels

Allowed one earned run over his past five starts (none over his past four) while going 5-0 with a 0.27 ERA, 46-9 strikeout-walk rate and .139 opponents’ average. Opponents hit .132 against in his past four outings.

Big Whiffs

Byron Buxton OF, Twins

Had just four hits in his previous 37 at-bats (.108), three of which were homers. He also struck out 15 times, walked once and had a .483 OPS.

Jameson Taillon SP, Yankees

Allowed 14 earned runs over his previous three starts — going 1-1 with a 7.88 ERA, .324 opponents’ average and four homers allowed.

Adolis Garcia OF, Rangers

After hitting .314 with seven homers, 18 RBIs, 19 runs and .929 OPS in June, he was 1-for-19 with eight strikeouts and .242 OPS in his first five games this month.

Michael Kopech SP, White Sox

No wins since June 7 — going 0-4 with a 6.65 ERA, 17-11 strikeout-walk rate and .267 opponents’ average in his Past five starts. He has lost four straight.

Check Swings

  • Atlanta’s Spencer Strider has struck out 39.2 percent of the batters he has faced as a starter (3-1, 2.83 ERA, 14.2 K/9). That includes striking out 23 over his past two starts (54.5 percent of the batters he faced in Thursday’s no-decision). He is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA, 53-7 strikeout-walk rate and .162 opponents average over his past six starts.
  • After a rough 20-game stretch in April, Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez hit .296 with 15 homers, 37 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and .901 OPS in his next 63 games. This week, he reached 15-plus homers and 20-plus stolen bases in 81 games, faster than any player in MLB history.
  • In 14 games before Friday, Milwaukee’s Rowdy Tellez hit .170 with just eight hits in 47 at-bats. Seven of those eight hits were home runs. He also drove in 16 runs, walked seven times and had a .929 OPS in that span.
  • Speaking of home run hitters, Houston’s Yordan Alvarez had 14 big flies in 31 games since May 30. In that span, he hit .391 with 33 RBIs, 21-18 strikeout-walk rate, 28 runs, .846 slugging percentage and 1.330 OPS.

Team Name Of The Week

Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Submitted by Erika Brooks

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