Kyren Paris received college interest from some of the top programs across the country. Although he had a plethora of options, the prep shortstop opted to remain close to home and signed a national letter of intent with the University of California, Berkeley.
His friend Darren Baker, whose father Dusty was a major league manager, is a sophomore at Cal. His relationship with Baker also played into his decision to commit to Cal, he said.
“Personally, I am happy to be close to home,” said Paris, an Oakley, California native. “Lot of home games right here in Berkeley, and the coaching staff is amazing. When I met them, we clicked.”
Paris may never play college baseball, though. Professional scouts project the well-regarded high school player as an early-round pick with the potential to go in the first round in June’s MLB draft.
He has impressive tools that make him an intriguing draft prospect. But Paris is trying his best to remain focused on his final season of high school baseball at Freedom High before worrying about his future.
“I am just working hard and enjoying my senior year,” he said. “I am looking forward to winning games and helping my team win a championship. That’s been our goal since that start.”
Paris, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound shortstop, is one of the top prep players in Northern California. Paris is a right-handed hitter and has a quick, compact swing. He consistently barrels up pitches and has solid plate discipline.
He also displays exceptional speed on the bases and at shortstop. He puts himself in a good fielding position due to his quick feet and range. He also continues to improve his arm strength.
“My biggest strength in my game is my ability to drive the ball, offensively, while also stealing bases,” Paris said. “I hit singles and doubles and then steal second and third and score runs. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for a long time and it’s been working out great.”
Paris is more of a gap-to-gap hitter and doesn’t possess tons of power due to his size. In his four-year career at Freedom High he’s hit two home runs in 78 games.
Paris won’t turn 18 years old until November. He believes he has room to add muscle to his frame, which likely would improve his power potential at the plate.
“Being one of the youngest in the class, I feel like I have a lot of room to grow with power,” Paris said.
He’s committed 34 errors playing for his high school team but has continued to refine his defensive skills. After committing 12 errors in each of his first two seasons, Paris had seven errors as a junior last year.
Although some scouts project Paris as a second baseman in the professional ranks, he believes he’s capable of sticking at his natural position.
“I’m very quick on my feet and can get to balls in the hole,” Paris said. “My arm strength is close to a major-league level. I’ve been working really hard at it. Shortstop is where I see myself in the future and is a position I love.”
After hitting .224 in 116 at-bats between his first two high school seasons, Paris showed tremendous growth last year. He hit .432 with 38 hits, 11 walks and six strikeouts in 88 at-bats. He also stole 28 bases.
He played on the showcase circuit and impressed scouts last summer. He also produced at the plate as a senior this season. In six games, he’s hitting .438 with seven hits, five walks and three strikeouts in 24 at-bats. He has five stolen bases.
“I improved a lot on my mental game last year,” Paris said. ‘I used visualization, and that was a huge jump for me. Before the game, visualizing what I wanted to do to really focus in on the process and my at-bats.
“I think that was ultimately the greatest jump. I just took pride in my tee work and in the basics and it carried over into my games.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for four years. He’s interviewed 133 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.