Name: Jarrod Parker
Height/Weight: 6'1''/195 pounds
How Acquired: Traded along with Collin Cowgill and Ryan Cook for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow on December 9, 2011. Originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the ninth overall pick in 2007
Jarrod Parker has had a bright spotlight on him since he was drafted out of an Indiana high school with the ninth-overall pick in 2007. Despite being an undersized right-hander from a state better known for producing basketball players and offensive linemen, Parker was a hot commodity before the draft. He turned down an opportunity to pitch for Georgia Tech when the Diamondbacks took Parker with the ninth pick.
Parker came with the pros with a fastball that was clocked as high as 98 MPH, as well as a surprisingly well-developed array of secondary pitches. Scout.com's FutureBacks.com spoke with Parker's high school coach immediately after the draft. Kelby Weybright had this to say about the then-18-year-old Parker:
"He can run the fastball in and out a little bit, and can spot it really well," Weybright said in 2007.
"He's got a pretty good slider that I would call above average; it's about 85 to 86, He's got an over-the-top curveball, but he doesn't throw it much. And he can throw a changeup, which is probably average because he hasn't had to throw it much. I'm sure it's something the big boys will tell him he has to throw a bunch of in the minors."
Parker signed too late to pitch during the regular season for the D-Backs, but after throwing at Arizona's Instructional League camp (where he roomed with current A's left-hander Brett Anderson), Parker made his professional debut in 2008 with Low-A South Bend. He quickly showed why he was so coveted before the draft. In 117.2 innings, Parker posted a 3.44 ERA and a 117:33 K:BB ratio. He allowed only eight homeruns.
The next season Parker was sent to High-A Visalia of the hitter-friendly California League. It only took four starts for the D-Backs to realize that Parker was too good for A-ball. He struck-out 21 and walked only four while posting a 0.95 ERA in 19 innings. He was promoted to Double-A Mobile, where he took on hitters two-to-three years older than him on average. He handled that challenge with relative ease, as well, posting a 3.68 ERA and a 74:34 K:BB ratio in 78.1 innings.
Unfortunately, Parker's meteoric rise would stall while with Mobile. Elbow tightness turned eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery, which Parker underwent not long after the 2009 season ended. He missed all of the 2010 season, but was still ranked by FutureBacks.com as the D-Backs' top prospect for that season.
Parker was healthy enough by the spring of this past season to pitch 6.1 innings in big league camp. His command wasn't sharp – something to be expected coming off of elbow surgery – but he still impressed in most of his big league spring outings. At the start of the season, Arizona sent Parker back to Double-A Mobile and he would spend the entire minor league season with the Bay Bears.
Despite missing all of the previous season, Parker was a durable workhorse in 2011. He made 26 starts and tossed 130.2 innings for the Bay Bears, posting a 3.79 ERA with a 112:55 K:BB ratio. Parker's command still wasn't back to pre-surgery levels, but he did an excellent job of keeping the ball on the ground and allowed only seven homeruns. He would make his major league debut in late September and he tossed 5.2 scoreless innings in his one big league start.
Because of his size and his ability to reach the mid- to upper-90s with his fastball, Parker has drawn comparisons to former All-Star right-hander Roy Oswalt. Parker has four pitches: his fastball, slider, change-up and a curveball. FutureBacks.com gave Parker this assessment late in the season:
"Post surgery, Parker's fastball still sits in the mid-90s. He doesn't throw his slider as often as he did before Tommy John, but it still grades out as a plus offering. His changeup has improved enough to give him a third plus-offering, and his curveball is pretty solid for a fourth pitch."
As Parker continues to grow stronger and separate himself from his surgery date, his stuff should also continue to gain more sharpness. His command was better the second half of the 2011 season, a good sign for what can be expected of him in 2012.
At his ceiling, Parker grades out as a top-of-the-rotation starter. He has drawn praise for his work ethic, which was evident during his recovery from surgery, and for his poise on the mound. Given his size and the elbow surgery, Parker will always face questions about his durability, but with the exception of the elbow injury and a wrist injury in 2009 that was a result of being hit by a line-drive, Parker has been healthy and durable throughout his career.
Although Parker has yet to throw a pitch at the Triple-A level, an argument can be made that he is ready for the big leagues now. He just turned 23 in late November. Oakland has a number of candidates for their 2012 starting rotation, so the A's certainly won't rush Parker to the big leagues, but they probably won't hold him back if he looks ready during spring training.
The A's are just starting their efforts to rebuild their roster and their minor league system and Parker is a big part of that effort. His ability to reach his potential as a top-of-the-rotation starter over the next few years will go a long way in determining how successful the A's current rebuilding plan will be.