Michael Paez said the Miami Hurricanes never offered him a scholarship, and neither did FIU.
“Not a lot of teams want a 5-7shortstop,” Paez said.
The 170-pound Paez — “171 on a good day,” he said — hasn’t grown much since his days at Miami’s Sunset High.
But what has changed is the respect he’s now getting. On Friday, Paez was selected in the fourth round of the MLB draft by the New York Mets.
Late Saturday night, Paez, whose 15 homers this year rank second among NCAA shortstops, led his Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in a Super Regional opener at LSU.
“It does feel good,” Paez said of his draft selection. “Some teams looked past me. That’s given me a chip on my shoulder. I’ve been overlooked my whole life.”
Not anymore. Paez is hitting .291 with 17 doubles and 50 RBI and leads the Big South Conference in runs scored with 62. He is a two-time All-Big South selection and was an all-star for the nation’s top summer league, Cape Cod (Massachusetts).
“He’s a guy who has been undervalued by the industry because he’s a smaller guy,” Mets scouting director Tommy Tanous told ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. “There’s some power with this kid, even in the Cape Cod League with wood bats.”
The Mets think he can stay at shortstop but could play second base because of his offense, and they like his swagger — the mark of any good Miami player.
Academically, Paez was named to the Dean’s list three times in three years at Coastal Carolina. He is studying communications with a minor in hospitality. Owning or running a hotel or restaurant is a possibility for Paez once his playing days are over.
But right now, Paez is balling. He and his teammates were in a meeting Friday in which the scouting report for LSU was being discussed.
Phones were not allowed, but Paez had his because he knew the draft call could be coming. Once it did, he received hugs all the way around from his teammates.
For Paez, the transformation from a hitter who never slugged more than five homers in a season at Sunset to what he has become has been fascinating.
He credits Sunset coach Mandy Pelaez with giving him an opportunity, and the same can be said for his coaches at Coastal, who “re-tooled my swing.”
Paez has also paid more attention to nutrition, and it all led up to the call from New York.
“I can’t thank the Mets enough,” Paez said. “I’m a guy you probably wouldn’t look at if I were standing on the side of the road.”
Maybe so … but the road to the majors is now his for the taking.
▪ Among those selected in Saturday’s final day of the MLB draft: Right-hander Anthony Molina (West Broward) was drafted in the 13th round by the Angels; catcher Gabriel Garcia (Broward College), 14th round, Brewers; shortstop Alex DeGoti (Belen Jesuit and Barry University), 15th round, Astros; third baseman Danny Zardon (American Heritage and Nova Southeastern), 17th round, Phillies; shortstop Kevin Santiago (Miami Dade College), 20th round, Rays; right-hander Alex Mateo (Monsignor Pace and Nova Southeastern), 22nd round, Marlins; right-hander Nelson Alvarez (Braddock), 27th round, Indians; left-hander Alex Kline (Nova Southeastern), 29th round, Phillies; right-hander William Durruthy (FIU), 31st round, Diamondbacks; center fielder Jose Gomez (Brito, Miami Dade College and St. Thomas University), 39th round, Brewers.