April 20, 2008
Living near a minor league stadium is always a treat, but rarely does one have the opportunity to see a pair of No. 1 prospects in their respective organizations (and highly-ranked Top 100 players as well) in the first two weeks of the season. But after seeing Mike Moustakas and the Burlington Bees in Kane County's season opener, I jumped at the chance to head to the ballpark once again this past Wednesday, to see highly regarded Arizona right-hander Jarrod Parker make his second career pro start for the South Bend SilverHawks. I decided to bear down on his start and provide the readers with a full report, thankfully with assistance from a veteran scout who was also in attendance.
The ninth overall pick last June out of a small Indiana high school, Parker was the fastest-rising player in the 2007 draft, almost going third overall to the Cubs in light of his having arguably the best pure arm available. His size was really the only the knock against him; MLBAM has him officially listed at 6'1" and 180 pounds, but the South Bend roster sheet is a more accurate: 5'11" and 190. While some have said he's something like a right-handed Scott Kazmir physically, he compares much better to Houston ace Roy Oswalt, who is less lanky and more solidly built.
First, a quick primer on how I track pitches. This is not how teams do it or anything official, this is just how I keep track when I have access to gun readings. Basically, each notation has three pieces on information: TYPE-VELO-RESULT. Under Type, FB is fastball, CU is curveball, is slider; CH is changeup; Velo is simple enough. Under Result, 'b' stands for ball, 's' for swinging strike, 'c' is a called strike, 'f' a foul ball, and 'x' is a ball in play. So, an 81 mph slider taken for a strike is SL81c.
With me so far? Good, let's get going...
Corey Brown: FB93c, FB93f, FB94b, FB91b, FB94sx = Strikeout + passed ball, safe at first base.
Matt Ray: SL84b, FB92s, FB92f, FB92x = Hit by Pitch
Toddric Johnson: FB92f, FB92s, FB93x = Single to left, Brown scores, Ray to second
Greg Dowling: FB93c, FB94s, FB95f, FB96f, FB95b, CU80f, FB95x = Safe on error, groundball to first base, with the throw hitting the runner going to second
Jake Smith: FB93b, FB89b*, FB92x = Deep Sac Fly, F8
Christian Vitters: FB92f, CH78b, FB93b, FB92x = Deep Sac Fly, F8
Shane Keough: FB93c, SL87c, FB94b, FB95b, CH79b, F91b = Walk
Jonathan Johnston: FB93b, FB91f, FB92s, SL84b, FB93x = 3-1 groundout
Walter Correa: FB92b, FB92s, SL83b, FB89s, SL88b, FB90x = 4-3 groundout
Corey Brown: FB89x = Home run to left
Matt Ray: FB91f, FB92c, CU77b, FB90x - groundout to first base, 3U
Toddric Johnson: FB90b, FB92s, CH79x - F7, deep
Greg Dowling: FB89x - Single to RF, out at 2nd
Jake Smith: FB91b, FB91s, CH81b, FB90x = Double into LF/CF gap
Christian Vitters: FB90b, FB90s, FB91f, SL84b, FB91s = Strikeout
Shane Keough: FB91x = 1-3 groundout
After the third, Parker's taken out. His final line: three innings, four hits, four runs (one earned), one walk, two strikeouts. Expected to throw 60-65 pitches, Parker was pulled at 64, leaving the rest of the game to the bullpen, which got hit hard in an 8-5 loss that featured a second home run from Brown.
Once Parker was pulled, I asked the scout for a summation of what he saw. "I haven't seen him before, and I was expecting a little more polish out of him. I certainly like his arm, but his breaking ball was below average today, although I liked the spin he generated, so there's potential there. This is just his second pro start, and you have to give him credit for pitching in a full-season league right now when a lot of kids like him would be in extended [spring training]. That cutting movement on his fastball hinders his command of the pitch, but once he gets a better feel for it, it's going to be a real weapon."
My takeaway? It's far too early to come to any conclusions on Parker off of three innings, but it's clear that despite his struggles, he's a significant talent.