Kyle Parker Debut A Mixed Bag For Rockies

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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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.

13 Responses to “Kyle Parker Debut A Mixed Bag For Rockies”

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  1. Hmm says:

    Great writeup Mike, Mathes hit 23 HR with a home park that had a 40/100 HR suppression factor. Can either of these guys become Todd Helton’s eventual replacement?

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  2. Kyle K. says:

    This is the Rockies homer in me dreaming, of course, but his leg kick and follow through look a lot like Holliday’s.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Holliday’s MILB numbers are actually very interesting as he was never particularly good in the minors. However, keep in mind Holliday passed through the Sally a full two years younger than Parker.

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      • Paul says:

        I was gonna make the exact same comment, with the caveat that Holliday was a high school draftee. But it’s not just the leg kick. If I recall correctly, Holliday had his hands all over the place for a while before settling on where he is now.

        He’s clearly raw, but like Holliday wouldn’t you say he has impressive bat speed down in the zone, Mike?

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    • Mike Newman says:

      I like the bat speed Paul and agree with your assessment. He has the tools to hit. However, if you can’t turn on 95 MPH on the inner half, you are essentially toast at the MLB level.

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  3. Sean O'Neill says:

    Mike, color me surprised that you would write this article and fail to mention Parker’s fairly dramatic home/road splits:

    Home: .308/.392/.579
    Road: .269/.347/.401

    That’s not as bad as Corey Dickerson’s splits by any stretch, but the fact that Asheville is a very friendly hitting environment and Parker did not hit particularly well away from there is a major red flag.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      In all honesty, I’m more a scouting guy and use what I see and then look for areas where the notes match statistically. The home/road splits are more statistical analysis and those words are better spent discussing what I actually saw being there when most anybody can point out those home/road splits and downgrade him that way.

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    • Coby DuBose says:

      I think this is worth noting for a number of reasons. First, if you look at the dimensions of the Asheville park, you get a pretty clear picture of what’s going on here. The dimensions are as follows:

      Field Dimensions
      Left Field – 326′ Left Center – 370′ Center – 373′ Right Center – 320′ Right Field 297′

      This is a pathetically small park that plays into hitters’ hands in more than one way. Asheville, while not Denver, is still in the mountains. There is no humidor in Asheville, either.

      If you look at the home/road splits for the primary Asheville contributors, the trends are astonishing.

      Corey DIckerson’s Home/Away OPS splits were 1.262/.642.
      24-year old catcher Dustin Garneau carried H/A splits of 1.001/.762
      Chandler Laurent went 1.016/.749.
      Brett Tanos went 1.003/.708
      Light-hitting SS Joey Wong even posted an .866 OPS at home, with a sub-.650 OPS on the road.

      The fact that Parker “only” posted an OPS of .973 at home, given his somewhat advanced age and prospect status, would be troubling to me if I were counting on him as a Rockies FO executive.

      It is worth nothing that the Sally is a notoriously difficult league in terms of road trips. With parks spread from Savannah to New Jersey and Lexington and everywhere in-between, there are some incredibly tough trips for young guys on bad buses. I haven’t done a study, but I’d guess that Home/Away splits in this league are more pronounced than in most minor leagues.

      There is no denying that Asheville is a hitter’s haven, though, and the fact that Parker didn’t “feast” there like some of his counterparts is a scary thought.

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  4. thomkay07 says:

    First of all, go Gamecocks, I hope Parker fails to be great. However, I’m surprised by his lack of speed running the bases. He was said to run a 4.6 40yd dash, and always displayed quick feet and athleticism at Clemson as a QB. While I wouldn’t expect him to be Vince Coleman, I would expect his speed to be a plus rather than a minus.

    Despite the cliche “you can’t coach speed,” which every track coach in the world must hate, you can improve running form and baserunning skills. I wonder if Parker is capable of making a significant improvement in those areas?

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