LOS ANGELES — Edward Paredes remembers pitching in a Double-A game four years ago for the Akron Aeros, a Cleveland Indians affiliate. As he recalled, the bases were loaded with one out when he was summoned from the bullpen. Paredes, a left-handed pitcher, would face back-to-back left-handed hitters.
Paredes said he threw six pitches – all sliders, all strikes – and the inning was over.
“They were mad at me when I came into the dugout,” he said. “They told me, ‘you have to throw at least one fastball per hitter.’ When they told me that I was in shock. Like ‘hey man, we’re winning by one run, you bring me in with the bases loaded and one out, I threw six sliders in a row, strike out both guys and you’re going to be mad at me for that?’”
Throwing too many sliders hasn’t been a problem for Paredes this year. Entering Thursday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, he’d thrown 72 of them according to the website FanGraphs.com. That’s out of a total of 106 pitches, giving Paredes the second-highest percentage of sliders thrown in the league, per FanGraphs.
This was the strategy the Dodgers laid out for Paredes not long after selecting him in last December’s minor league Rule 5 draft. He’d been throwing his fastball and slider about evenly over the course of 11 minor-league seasons. The Dodgers, he said, wanted to see his slider about 60 percent of the time. Paredes threw it 68 percent of the time and didn’t allow a run in his first eight appearances through Wednesday.
The Dodgers’ front office has made a habit of targeting pitchers – particularly relievers – who might be throwing their best pitch at a suboptimal rate. Josh Fields and Tony Cingrani are two recent examples. But turning a 30-year-old journeyman like Paredes into a bona fide major leaguer was going to take some work.
Typically held at the end of the Winter Meetings, the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft can feel like the waning moments of a middle school dance. The lights are flickering; the cool kids have already partnered up for the night. The players selected are not prospects. Their names are familiar only to professional evaluators. Unlike the blockbuster trades and free-agent signings, this portion of the Winter Meetings does not make headlines.
Thirty-nine players were selected in the minor league Rule 5 draft last December. Only one is is in the major leagues: Paredes.
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