RIP to Johnny Paredes, a second baseman for three seasons in the major leagues and a popular veteran ballplayer in his home country of Venezuela. He died on November 5 from cancer at the age of 58. According to the El Nacional website (link in Spanish), Paredes was first diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and underwent two surgeries, the most recent being this year. Paredes played for the Montreal Expos (1988, 1990) and Detroit Tigers (1990-91).
Johnny Alfonso Paredes was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, on September 2, 1962. He was the youngest child in a family of six sons. His father played baseball as well, but Paredes never got to see him in action. His father died when he was seven years old. His family encouraged his athletic ambitions, and he began playing baseball in Maracaibo at a young age. By the time he was 18 years old, he was on a Venezuelan national team that made several trips to Florida to participate in a Big League World Series tournament. The tournament included other teams from North and Central America, as well as multiple U.S. teams from different regions.
Paredes came to the United States to play full time when he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent a couple of seasons in the low minors with the Phillies, starting with the Rookie-level Helena Phillies of the Pioneer League in 1982. He batted .305 in 34 games with 1 home run. He also played second base, third base and shortstop, with varying degrees of success.
The Phillies released Paredes after a poor 1983 season, in which he batted .238 for the Class-A Spartanburg Spinners. In 46 games, he had 31 hits — all singles except for 3 triples. The release came as a shock to the young infielder; he was named to the Big League World Series All-Star Team in 1981 and was Helena’s leading hitter in 1982, so a release from professional baseball was the last thing on his mind.
“There was no feeling in my mind. I was not mad. I was not sad. I just did not understand,” he said. “All my life I dreamed of playing baseball and now they take away the dream.”
Parades did the natural thing and returned to the Venezuelan Winter League, and he was named the Rookie of the Year for the 1983-84 season. Before long, he was approached by scouts Jim Fanning and Danny Menendez of the Montreal Expos. They offered him another chance at the major leagues, and he quickly signed. “I have my chance now with the Expos,” Parades said after an excellent performance at the team’s minor-league spring training camp in 1984. “In four or five years I hope to be in the big leagues.”
In 1984, Paredes hit .253 with the West Palm Beach Expos of the Class-A Florida State League. He also stole 23 bases and demonstrated some good patience at the plate. The team kept him at second base, as opposed to the Phillies who shuttled him around every infield spot. Paredes handled second base very well and became part of a slick middle infield tandem with his roommate, shortstop Luis Rivera. Rivera, from Puerto Rico, was a year younger than Paredes but spoke English better, and he helped Paredes acclimate to the United States.
Paredes’ season ended early because of a knee injury, and he reported back to West Palm Beach in ’85. It took less than a month of hitting over .300 to show he was healthy and ready for advancement, and he was moved up to the AA Jacksonville Expos. He batted .261 for the remainder of the 1985 season and then .286 in 1986. Even more impressive was the fact that he showed a little bit of power in ’86, with 6 home runs. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but Paredes had only hit a total of 5 home runs to that point in his professional career.
An excellent 1987 season with the Indianapolis Indians of the AAA American Association left Paredes knocking on the door of the major leagues. He batted a career-high .312 with 8 home runs and 47 RBIs. He stole 30 bases and had a .978 fielding percentage at second base as well. Paredes was rated highly enough by the Expos that he was brought to spring training in 1988 to compete for the starting second base role. He battled Casey Candaele for the job right down to the final days of spring. In the end, Candaele got the first try at it, and Paredes started the season back in Indianapolis.
Paredes was handed his opportunity to start at the end of April when Candaele failed to impress. He made his major-league debut on April 29, 1988, in Houston. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI single off Danny Darwin. Paredes put together what was arguably his best game in the major leagues on May 1. Though he struck out 3 times against the Astros’ Mike Scott, he also singled off him in the first inning, singled and stole a base off reliever Ernie Camacho in the 10th inning, laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 13th inning and slammed a 3-run home run in the top of the 14th inning to make the score 7-3 Expos. He finished the day with 3 hits in 6 at-bats with a sacrifice bunt, a stolen base and the only home run of his major league career. And it came in the Astrodome, one of the hardest places to hit a homer.
The Expos kept Paredes in the starting lineup for the rest of the month of May, but his batting average dropped to below .200. He was sent back to AAA and was recalled in September, where he appeared as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner. For the year, he appeared in 35 games for the Expos and slashed .187/.282/.242 with 10 RBIs and 5 stolen bases.
Paredes underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 1989 and missed the entire season. In December of 1989, he was claimed by the Detroit Tigers in the Rule V Draft. He laid down a perfect bunt for a single in his first Tigers at-bat on April 18, 1990, but that ended up being his only hit in 8 at-bats with the team. The Tigers returned him to the Expos on May 1, and Montreal sent him back to Indianapolis until September. He picked up 2 hits in 6 at-bats upon his return to end the season with a .214 average in 9 games between the two teams.
The Expos released Paredes at the end of 1990, and he re-signed with the Tigers. Once again, he stayed in the minors (in this case the AAA Toledo Mud Hens) for more of 1991 and was brought up in September. He didn’t get many chances to hit, but when he did, he made them count. He had a perfect 4-for-4 day on September 11, 1991, with 3 runs scored and a stolen base. Even after that performance, Detroit kept him as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for most of September. He ended the season with a .333 average (6 hits in 18 at-bats) in 16 games.
Over parts of three seasons, Paredes had a slash line of .211/.292/.260, with 26 hits in 60 games. He had 3 doubles and the 1 home run, drove in 11 runs and scored 12 times with 6 stolen bases. He had a career .965 fielding percentage in 41 games at second base, and he also played one inning each at shortstop, third base and right field, without ever getting a fielding chance at any of them.
Aside from a 53-game stay with the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Baseball League in 1992, Paredes remained with the Mud Hens through the end of 1993. He batted .276 in 11 minor-league seasons, with 1,055 hits and 248 stolen bases. He finished his North American baseball career with Veracruz of the Mexican League in 1995.
Paredes was a regular in the Venezuelan Winter League in the offseasons from 1983-84 until 1995-96. Most of his time was spent with Las Águilas del Zulia, and he played on the championship teams of the 1983-84, 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons. They also won the Caribbean Series in 1984. His 70 stolen bases are third-best in team history, and he is one of a dozen Águilas players to have more than 300 hits — 309 to be exact.