Last year, Gerardo Parra led the Midwest League in batting average and finished fifth in hits despite playing the final month of the minor league season on the Visalia Oaks. In Visalia, he hit .284, but posted a meager OPS of .685. Still, with the trade of Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham to the Oakland Athletics, Parra became the best overall outfield prospect in the organization, and many fans were surprised to find him beginning the season once again at Hi-A.
"It was just a good starting point: the way everything lined up both for him as a player and us as an organization," Diamondbacks field coordinator Jack Howell justified. "All you have to do is look at our past history of last year for some guys who started at a lower level, then wound up playing in the playoffs in the big leagues," he added, clearly referencing Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds, who began the 2007 season at Hi-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, respectively.
"I think it's more of a big picture mentality. We look more for the whole, total development for this season as well as his career."
So Parra spent the first two months of the season at Visalia once again. He hit a clean .300, but slugged just .411 there. He had been batting .250 with only one extra base hit and one RBI over his last 10 games. It's a surprise that his merely solid performance in the Cal League warranted this promotion, considering the expectations many had for him playing at a low level that is also the best hitter's league in the minors.
On the other hand, Parra's performance in the Midwest League outdistanced Justin Upton's by so much that it may be a better indicator of his future performance. Many scouts contend that Upton was merely bored with the Midwest League and did not give his best effort. Indeed, he contributed roughly $400 to the Silver Hawks' year end party fund by not running to first base as hard as he could. Perhaps Parra felt a similar lack of motivation with the Oaks.
We'll find out soon enough. Parra now finds himself in a league with much better pitchers, but also with more spacious ballparks. Since he isn't a home run hitter, Parra may actually benefit from these larger dimensions, as they could allow more of his line drive gappers to land on the outfield grass. The pressure is on not only for Parra, but for the entire organization, who decided to hold onto this talented outfielder in lieu of some others.Send questions or comments for Keith Glab to firstname.lastname@example.org
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