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Bernie Pleskoff

Parker has the stuff to be a winner

Pleskoff: Parker has the stuff to be a winner

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The success of the 2011 Arizona D-backs generated tremendous fan enthusiasm as well as guarded anticipation and optimism from their front office.

For many, general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson represented a dynamic duo highly capable of properly assessing the club's strengths and weaknesses in preparation for the 2012 season.

Their 2011 season together earned outstanding reviews. They had shown efficiency in player evaluation and motivation. They had used the season to establish team-wide standards and expectations. The team was on a roll.

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Suddenly and surprisingly, on Dec. 1 the D-backs traded highly regarded right-handed pitcher Jarrod Parker to the Oakland A's.

Determining his team needed the stability of a seasoned veteran starter, Towers traded Parker and prospects Collin Cowgill and Ryan Cook to Oakland for the more established right-handed starting pitcher, Trevor Cahill.

The trade was surprising for several reasons.

First and foremost, Parker was a former first-round selection of the D-backs in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He was selected ninth overall and was the first high school player chosen that year.

Parker signed his Arizona contract just before the deadline, forgoing an opportunity to attend Georgia Tech University for a chance to become a professional baseball player. He signed too late to play any professional baseball that season.

The trade also surprised because Parker had begun to rebound from Tommy John surgery that was performed on Oct. 28, 2009. Parker lost a year of service rehabilitating his surgically repaired arm in 2010.

In fact, reports were very optimistic about his progress. He was viewed by most as the Diamondbacks top pitching prospect, still reflecting his upside and his lofty draft position.

In the 2011 season there were encouraging signs that Parker would regain his pre-surgical form when he threw 130 2/3 innings for the D-backs Double-A Mobile club in the Southern League.

He compiled an 11-8 record, but he issued a high total of 55 walks, resulting in a WHIP of 1.278. Opposing hitters hit only .236 off Parker in his 26 starts. But those walks could be troubling. The walks indicated Parker still had work ahead in regaining his command.

Parker made one Major League appearance for Arizona following a September recall. He threw 5.2 innings and gave up only 4 hits and one walk. He didn't earn a decision. He even pitched a third of an inning in the National League Division Series against the Brewers.

Following his move to Oakland, Parker began the season as a member of Oakland's Triple-A Sacramento club. He threw 20 2/3 innings, fashioned a 2.18 ERA and reduced his walk rate from 3.9 per nine innings to 2.6.

Parker made his Oakland debut April 25, 2012. He has remained a very viable part of one of the league's finest pitching staffs ever since.

Jarrod Parker has top of the rotation "stuff."

Using both a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball as his primary offerings, Parker has enough velocity and movement on his pitches to induce ground balls or swings and misses.

His 2-seam fastball gets tremendous late sink. He has good enough command and control of the pitch to use it on any count and get hitters to top the ball into the ground.

Parker's 4-seam fastball has a velocity that usually sits at 92-93 mph with a top of 95. That's the pitch he can elevate a bit in the zone and get hitters to chase.

Parker is astute enough to realize that changing speeds, changing eye levels and keeping hitters off balance will be the keys to his success. So far this season, he has done just that.

Appropriately aggressive, Jarrod Parker goes right after hitters. He takes charge on the mound. It's a quality I really, really like about him.

I am reminded of an at-bat against Parker by Yankees All Star power-hitting second baseman Robbie Cano earlier this month. Cano saw 5 pitches. He was behind in the count on two called strike fastballs. One was a 2-seamer, one a 4-seamer. He fouled off the next 95 mph fastball and an 83 mph change-up. Then Parker doubled up on Cano. He threw another change-up, even slower at 81 mph. Cano swung and missed. with five quality pitches, he struck out him out.

That's what Jarrod Parker can do.

In today's world of big power pitchers, Parker is rather average sized at 6-feet-1 and 195 pounds.

Parker's delivery to the plate is very simple. There are no extraneous movements and little, if any variation in his delivery pitch-to-pitch. One of the most positive factors regarding Parker's future rests in his outstanding mechanics. In short, his delivery is clean.

Parker has shown little, if any, negative ramifications from his surgery. If anything, he is stronger. He hasn't compensated and changed his mechanics to protect his elbow or shoulder.

The D-backs and Kevin Towers felt comfortable entering this season with a veteran-starting pitcher like Trevor Cahill to compliment the rotation that included pitchers like Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson (now injured) and the recently traded Joe Saunders. Cahill would slot nicely.

The trade that brought Jarrod Parker to Oakland has helped both clubs.

Cahill has won 12 games this season for the D-backs. He has an ERA of 3.89 in a tough pitcher's park. By most standards, he has done what Towers and Gibson had intended. He brought stability and pitching experience to a staff that entered the season with high hopes.

This season, his first full year as a rotation starter, to date in 169 1/3 innings, Parker has an 11-8 record and a 3.40 ERA. His walk rate is down to 3.1 per 9 innings.

Parker will likely be pitching in the postseason.

To me, Jarrod Parker has all the ability of a winner.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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