Name: Gerardo Parra
Born: Santa Barbara del Zulia, Venezuela
Weight: 186 lbs
History: Gerardo Parra began his professional career at the age of 18, hitting .384 for Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic. He then led the Pioneer league in hits at the age of 19, and led the Midwest League in batting average at 20. Later that year in Visalia, he hit .284, and then batted .300 there in the first two months of 2008 before earning his promotion to Mobile.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
With the trade of Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham to the Oakland Athletics, Parra became the best overall outfield prospect in the Diamondbacks organization. Seeing as how he has hit at every level, stolen bases at every level, and has great tools for succeeding on defense, many fans were surprised it took Parra so long to advance to Double-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. "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."
It's very easy to forget that Parra only turned 21 in May. Yes, he has had the aforementioned success, but he is still years away from reaching his full potential. In particular, the club would like to see him draw more walks and hit for more power. They feel he can do both, and if that happens, Gerardo Parra will be an MVP-caliber player.
Batting and Power: While his bat speed is only a little above average, Parra has tremendous balance at the plate due to a very strong lower body and short stride. This gives him a level head, which allows him to see the ball very well. He also sprays the ball to all fields, going with pitch location rather than against it. This makes it very difficult for pitchers to gameplan against him.
"He is the best pure hitter in the entire system," praised Miguel Nava, the international scout who signed Parra out of Venezuela in 2004. " I think this guy is special."
Unfortunately, his minimal stride gives him very little power to speak of. His lower body doesn't produce much power without a significant weight shift, and his upper body simply isn't that strong yet. He has some room to add more muscle to his frame, but not much. He's listed anywhere between 5'11" and 6'1" with the former measurement being closer to the truth.
Some scouts do believe that Parra could be capable of at least Bobby Abreu-level power in the distant future. Perhaps that's why this prototypical table-setter has been used primarily in the #3 slot in the batting order. Another is clutch play - Parra is always at his finest with runners on base.
Base Running and Speed: When Parra himself is on base, he can create some havoc as well. Parra is one fast dude, and surprisingly good at reading pitchers and getting good jumps for someone his age. He doesn't make stupid mistakes on the bases and has what the organization calls "useable speed." It's very exciting to watch him zoom around the bases, but Parra is exciting without ever being out-of-control.
Defense: Parra also uses this speed while patrolling the outfield. The raw wheels there combine with more good baseball instincts to help him cover a lot of ground out there. In fact, A.J. Hinch considers Parra to have the best outfield range in the organization. With Carlos Gonzalez and Daniel Perales now gone, he may also have the best outfield arm. The young Venezuelan does still make too many errors out there, but given his age and skills, that is a problem that should soon correct itself.
Given this skill set, Parra has surprisingly been used more in right field than in centerfield. He considers himself more of a natural centerfielder, where his ability to track down balls would be put to its greatest use, and where his outfield arm will still come into play.
Major League Clone: Shannon Stewart
Prediction: I don't think Parra will develop consistent 20-homer power without a major change in his swing, which he shouldn't do, since he can be a clockwork .300 hitter in the big leagues. The real question with Parra is whether he will develop the patience to draw more walks. Even 60-70 free passes per year will give him a yearly OBP of around .400 and allow him to devastate opponents with his speed.
ETA: "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," said Howell in reference to Parra's timetable. I don't think we'll see him until September of 2009 at the earliest, as the team won't want to accelerate his arbitration eligibility with a solid young outfield already in place. Parra could be an impact major leaguer by 2011.
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