The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Jarrod Parker

Many popular opinions of pitching prospects are formed from general scouting reports. While these reports are invaluable resources, they can’t always be trusted. Hundreds of minor league hurlers are credited with “mid-90′s velocity,” but very few MLB starters actually have that grade of heat, for example. It’s incredibly frustrating to hear about a pitcher with “a mid-90′s heater and plus curve,” only to have him come up to the big leagues and show a fastball that averages 90.5 mph and a slider.

When a pitcher come up to the majors, we can finally get a foolproof reading on what exactly his arsenal is comprised of, thanks to the great Pitch F/X system. In this series, I analyze just that–the “stuff” of recently-promoted MLB pitchers. Now that they’ve achieved their big league dreams and thus factor directly into the MLB picture, it’s high time that we know exactly what these guys are providing.

This time, I’m taking a look at Diamondbacks starter Jarrod Parker.

Jarrod Parker is a prospect I’ve never been particularly high on, relative to the mainstream. In fact, there are a lot of parallels between Parker and Kyle Drabek, another guy I never really came around on–both are short righties with good velocity, a solid breaking pitch, and merely average K/BB ratios. Parker’s prospectdom is inflated (in my opinion) by his draft status, while Drabek’s was inflated by his happening to catch fire right as the Phillies were pursuing Roy Halladay.

Parker missed all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery and came back in 2011 to repeat Double-A, where he pitched worse than he did in 2009 (post-injury caveats apply, of course). He got one start with the Diamondbacks in the regular season and made a brief appearance in their first-round defeat at the hands of the Brewers.

Overall, that’s just an 84-pitch sample, so I’m not about to do any sort of definitive analysis here–that would be quite foolish. Still, though, it’s a useful sample to have, because Parker’s hype train is so big that it’s nonetheless useful to get a more definitive read on what he throws, if not how effective his pitches are.

So here it is:

He looks to be in the 91-94 range with his fastball, occasionally slipping to 89-90 or gearing up to 95-96. He’s also got a slurvy breaking ball in the 78-82 mph range (he also threw one big, loopy 69-mph pitch) and a surprisingly nice changeup that features about 12 mph of separation from his fastball.

Here’s where he put those pitches:

This is fairly promising. He keeps the ball down and pounds the zone, while working both corners of the plate. He didn’t seem to get the breaking pitches down, but all that means is that he didn’t have the feel for the pitch in his one start–not really useful data. Still, from what little we can glean from 84 pitches, it’s hard not to like this.

For what it’s worth, Parker only got one whiff in his 62 fastballs. The pitch has some life, but he doesn’t get great plane on it due to his short stature, and I’m not sure it’s going to be the plus pitch that everyone says it is. The changeup, however, could be very effective, and it should allow Parker to deal with lefties.

The fastball and slider have some positive attributes, but neither really stuns me, and I find it quite possible that Parker’s lone plus offering in the bigs will be the changeup. Overall, I get a real Anibal Sanchez vibe from Parker’s size and arsenal, and that’s probably Parker’s upside. He’ll need to prove his durability and improve his breaking pitch to get to that level, but Parker can take heart in the fact that Sanchez didn’t break out until he was 26 (although he did have a big-league no-hitter by the time he was Parker’s age).

I do see some good potential here, but the question remains: Why hasn’t it played better in the minors? Two years post-surgery, Parker will be out to show that he can get his statistics to match his ability in 2012.

For more on the Diamondbacks, check out Venom Strikes!

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Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks Jarrod Parker

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