Native Venezuelan Gerardo Parra batted .286 with five home runs, 51 runs scored, 52 RBI, and 28 stolen bases in 123 games split between Hi-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile. Respectable numbers, but something of a disappointment for the man ranked as the best position player prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization heading into 2008. The 21-year old is more than making up for lost time in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Over his past 10 games, Parra has collected 19 hits - nine of which went for extra bases - in 40 at-bats. His most outstanding performance came against Las Tiburones de La Guaira on Saturday; Parra went 4-for-4 with a walk, two homers, and six RBI. La Guaira's starter, Henry Bonilla of the Angels organization, had been 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in his seven previous starts, including a five-inning shutout of Parra's Aguilas del Zulia back on October 15th.
Parra with Visalia
So while the level of competition in Venezuela can vary from day-to-day, player-to-player, and team-to-team, clearly Parra has proven himself able against some of the higher-echelon competition. Through December 3rd, Parra's .346 batting average was tied for 7th in the league. He was also first in doubles (16), second in steals (11), third in total bases (89), third in RBI (34), sixth in runs scored (29), and ninth in on-base percentage (.423).
His torrid play has led his Aguilas del Zulia to a four-game winning streak ever since that amazing Saturday performance. That still leaves them five games out of first place with less than a month to play, but anything can happen if Parra keeps up his incredible pace.
Parra had collected a hit in the All-Star Futures game this summer off off a 97 MPH Casey Weathers fastball in Yankee Stadium. He has been a clutch player throughout his professional career, coming up with big hits in big situations time and time again. The one knock on his game had been the absence of power, but having slugged .549 so far in Venezuela, he does appear to be developing some.
Parra turns 22 in May. He is not currently on the D-backs' 40-man roster, so he isn't likely to factor into their plans for 2009. He will need to be protected for next winter's Rule 5 Draft, however, so don't be surprised to see him contribute to the big league club in some capacity in 2010. Even then, he will be years away from reaching his full potential, which appears to be full indeed.
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