Every Monday I will be taking an in-depth look at a player who could potentially get called up to the Majors this year, and could be useful to fantasy owners as a result. In some cases, it could a top prospect (like today's), and in other cases it could be a player in the minors who would benefit from an opportunity in the bigs, especially if an injury or trade occurs. Last week I took a look at Rockies' 3B prospect Nolan Arenado, and today we'll head to the American League and take a look at Athletics' right handed pitcher Jarrod Parker.
Role Now: Potential 5th starter
Likely Role in the Future: #2 or #3 starter
Age at end of 2012 season: 23
On 40-man Roster: YES
Options Used: 1 (2012)
Service Time: 0.010 (through 2011 season)
Parker was drafted by the Diamondbacks with the 9th pick of the 2007 amateur draft from a high school in Indiana. He received a $2.1 million signing bonus, but did not debut in the 2007 season. For 2008, he was sent to their Low-A affiliate and really showed what made him a top draft pick, as he went 12-5 with a 3.44 ERA (3.12 FIP), 117 strikeouts and just 33 walks in 117 2/3 innings pitched.
The team sent Parker to their High-A affiliate to start 2009, and was so dominant in 4 starts that they promoted him to AA in late April. Clearly unfazed by the promotion, Parker posted solid numbers (74 K/34 BB in 78+IP), but there was bad news on the horizon. On July 30th, Parker came out of his start, and the dreaded Tommy John surgery ended up being needed for Parker.
Parker missed the entire 2010 season, but was ready for the 2011 season and was sent back to AA to see if he could pick where he left off before the injury. He posted similar numbers in a full season this time around, with 112 strikeouts against 55 walks in 130+ innings pitched. He was called up in September to the bigs, and made 1 start toward the end of the month. During the offseason, Parker was the main prospect traded by the Diamondbacks to acquire Athletics' right hander Trevor Cahill.
What's Stopping Him From Being in the Majors Right Now?
Realistically, not a whole lot. There's probably 2 or 3 things I see that are keeping him in Sacramento right now.
1) His command seems a bit raw at times.
I saw Parker pitch against the Athletics on March 31st here in Sacramento, and at times he was clearly using his offspeed pitches effectively. However, he seemed to be having some issues with controlling his fastball, and as a result he ended up getting hit around pretty good by the A's. (His defense didn't really do him any favors that night, but the location issues still hurt as well. He could probably use a few starts to go as expected in AAA before moving him forward.
2) The A's don't have a need for a fifth starter really until April 20th, and...
2a) He may not even be the first choice for that job from Sacramento.
Despite trading away four different starting pitchers this offseason, the Athletics actually have other options for the 5th starter job besides just Parker. To me, Tyson Ross seems like the most likely candidate to be called up to make that start on April 20th, and unless he struggles badly they aren't likely to pull Ross from the role.
3) The A's are being ever mindful of their prospects' service time, potentially to a fault.
The A's are not expected to compete for the division title (and after their first 4 games, that appears to be the most likely outcome), and as such there is not a whole lot of reason to bring Parker up very early. Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors posted back in February that for the A's to avoid losing a full season of control, they would need to keep Parker down until early May, and would need him to stay down until late June to avoid Super-2 status. These factors are obviously important to a team which is cost-conscious, especially given their unlikeliness to compete in 2012.
What Could He Do When He Gets to the Majors?
As of right now, I would be a bit concerned about his potential to affect your WHIP once he arrives based on what we've seen thus far. He seems iike he could post a strikeout rate between 7 and 8 per 9 innings, but it could be with a WHIP north of 1.30-1.35 potentially. The possibility of a top flight starter is there though, especially if he can get his walks better under control than he has shown thus far. Add in that he'll make half of his starts in the canyon that is the A's home stadium, and he seems to me like he has the potential to be a top 20 starter in the next couple of seasons. Until the control solidifies, I think he would look more like a #5 or #6 starter for fantasy given the favorable home matchups.
When Does He Seem Likely to Get There?
Based on the service time concerns, and the fact that the team has a number of options ahead of Parker on the depth chart, I don't see Parker getting up until at least the All-Star break. Even then, he could end up staying in AAA due to the fact that both Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson are likely to return before the All-Star break. Realistically, I think he ends up in Sacramento until at least late July, unless there is a number of injuries to the Major League rotation.