Here’s one way to figure the Orioles did well in adding rental Gerardo Parra on Friday — so far this year, he’s recorded a 140 wRC+. That ties him with Todd Frazier for 22nd overall, and it puts him also in the company of names like Albert Pujols and Manny Machado. You don’t have to look deep if you don’t want to. The Orioles added Parra to their outfield. Why? Parra has been a really good hitter. Look how simple baseball is.
But hey, this season has been a little out of character for a guy who’s previously been a tweener. Understandably, the market wasn’t totally buying Parra’s offensive breakout. And you don’t have to, either, but I thought I’d at least introduce some numbers. Here’s Gerardo Parra, pulling the ball, by wRC+ over his career:
And, his groundball rates when pulling the ball:
Obviously, numbers bounce around. And Parra’s big season hasn’t been all about hitting the ball to right and right-center. But this is at least curious, and at best an indicator of real change. Parra’s hitting a career-low rate of groundballs, overall, with a career-best hard-hit rate, and what might follow from that is that he’s gotten better about selectively lifting the ball. And also doing so with authority. Could be a change to his swing. Don’t have time to look at that now, but Parra was always more of a speedy sort. Keep in mind that Carlos Gomez was more of a speed-and-slap hitter until he went to Milwaukee, where they unlocked his strength. The Brewers let Gomez become a power hitter, and maybe they saw something similar in Parra. Last year, after he joined the Brewers from the Diamondbacks, his grounder rate dropped almost immediately.
It’s just something to think about. And Parra, even now, is only 28, so he could have some good years left. Looking at the rest-of-season projections, and normalizing them all to a per-200-plate-appearances basis, Parra projects about as well as Corey Dickerson and Randal Grichuk. He projects short of Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton, but if you buy Parra’s offensive improvement, he closes that gap quickly. This year, Parra’s out-hit them both. And, historically, he’s been a good defender.
Is Gerardo Parra sort of the new Carlos Gomez? Just maybe. He was already a useful player, but now the Orioles also found some upside. And they have a chance to sign Parra to an extension, if they want, and if they’re buying his improvement. The Brewers extended Gomez for three years and $24 million when he was fresh off his first strong offensive year. He only got better, and the deal looked like a bargain immediately.
What the Orioles gave up isn’t nothing. Zach Davies is a real prospect, starting every few days in Triple-A. While his fastball is underwhelming, he features a real good changeup, and those are the sorts of pitching prospects who tend to get underrated by the overall scouting community. With a few more strikes, or a step forward with his breaking ball, Davies could be a big-league starter soon. Congratulations to the Brewers! Davies should help them in 2016. Parra will help the Orioles now, as they try to compete with the Yankees and the extremely flashy Blue Jays. And maybe, just maybe, Parra will stick around. He might’ve become a special player.