Colorado Rockies 2010 first round pick Kyle Parker posted impressive power numbers, but lofty strikeout totals in his full season debut in the South Atlantic League. Given his being age appropriate for the level, if not a touch long in the tooth, Parker’s triple slash line of .285/.367/.483 appears better on paper than in practice as his 132/48 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .353 BABIP point to a prospect whose success has a bit of a “Smoke and Mirrors” feel.
Maybe Parker’s status as a first round pick led me to unfair expectations, but 1.4 million is a significant investment to make in a prospect – Enough for me to consider him as a “must scout” given my geographic location. However, Parker, much like most other first round picks scouted left more questions than answers forcing me to reflect on just how important draft position plays when forming an opinion of a player. If the vast majority of high bonus prospects scouted wind up disappointing, do I need to lower the bar in my mind a bit more so it balances out when thoughts and observations are transformed into words?
From a physical standpoint, Parker had more of a “sturdy”, well-developed frame than other prospects on the field except for maybe Edward Salcedo. Parker may still have some room to develop physically, but I wonder if any gains to his lower half will be offset by a leaning through his shoulders as “football muscles” give way to those needed for baseball. And while I was moderately impressed with his overall athleticism, the usual stiffness through the shoulders football players exhibit when transitioning to the diamond was easily noticeable to me even though one scouting contact disagreed with this observation.
That stiffness carried into the batter’s box as Parker struggled to connect with pitches at the letters or higher. Part of this was due to low hand positioning in his load, but it’s also a characteristic of swinging with “tight” shoulders.
Back in 2009, Red Sox third base prospect Will Middlebrooks scouted similarly from an offensive standpoint. In scouting, everyone has a red herring and tight shoulders are mine. Parker may very well loosen up considerably with adjustments to his off-season regimen, but it’s something which forces me to downgrade him as a hitter until seeing otherwise.
In terms of commanding the strike zone, Parker swung early and often at fastballs looking to capitalize before pitchers could potentially work ahead in the count and mix in off-speed pitches. This led to mostly one or two pitch at bats mixed with a couple longer at bats solely dependent on the number of breaking pitches thrown early in the count.
If Parker is in need of a nickname, “Dead Red” would be quite fitting. In fairness to Parker, the strategy is appropriate considering his being a bit behind on the learning curve due to his football background, but requires careful monitoring as pitchers will look to exploit his approach as a weakness.
On defense, Parker showed range and arm strength for right field, but his routes were unrefined to put it kindly. Of course experience and reps are likely to help him improve in this area, but any thought of Parker being a functional center fielder should probably be laid to rest.
As for speed, Parker has little as I pulled a 4.45 from scouting video leaving him a 35 runner on the 20/80 scale. He was also more of a “heel runner” which is not conducive to short bursts such as running to first base. This leaves Parker as a potential plodder and he may already be considering the 20 double plays he hit into this season.
In 2012, I fully expect Kyle Parker to dominate the California League like so many other college players with similar prospect profiles do. If organization-mate Kent Matthes can post a .642 slugging percentage in that league after struggling mightily through an injury plagued 2010 season, then Parker should push that pace, if not exceed it.
At present, Parker has enough holes in his game for a scouting contact to refer to him as an “extra guy” instead of top prospect. For me, he profiles as more of a 4th outfielder, but his being a former two-sport athlete who may develop more fluid baseball movements as football is pushed further into the rear view mirror forces me to leave wiggle room for a bit more.
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