College coach on Parker: "He's going to be a good one"

The Nationals drafted left-hander Mitchell Parker out of San Jacinto College North in the fifth round of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft last week.

San Jacinto College North, located about 18 minutes from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, has built a reputation as a well-known and very successful junior college in the baseball world, churning out solid pitchers and position players for Division I scholarship offers and professional baseball potential for decades.

Nationals assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline called Parker's delivery "funky" and "unconventional". And this is a good thing, according to Parker's college coach at San Jacinto, Tom Arrington.

"Mitchell is unique in his delivery," Arrington said. "His arm slot and his arm is a little longer on the back side, but it comes out of the same slot with each of his pitches. He creates a tunneling effect. He can throw the four-seam fastball, which has got good spin rate on it. And then the tunneling of the breaking ball coming right out of that same slot, it's hard to hold up on. I think he had over two strikeouts per inning. That's tough to do, even at our level."

Arrington has guided the Gators for 20 seasons, reaching the National Junior College Athletic Association JUCO World Series 11 times and the title game six times since 2001. On the 2019 squad alone, San Jac was stacked with top-of-the-line pitching: Arrington worked with Nationals 2019 first-rounder Jackson Rutledge, Oakland Athletics 2020 first-round selection Dane Acker and Parker.

In a shortened 2020 campaign, the 20-year-old Parker went 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA in six starts, striking out 64 batters in 30 1/3 innings. The Gators raced out to a 21-6 record, 12-0 in conference.

Kline thought Parker's curveball might actually be a more effective pitch right now at getting guys out than his fastball. The 12-to-6 drop is a big deal coming from Parker, who stands at 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs. Arrington said with his frame and the way his fastball comes at hitters, Parker is the type of pitcher that will play higher up in the strike zone to get chest-high swings.

Mitchell Parker Headshot Sidebar.jpg"He's the kind of guy with his four-seam fastball and that type of curveball, he can pitch at the top of the zone, which we are seeing much more of in the big leagues right now," Arrington said. "Pitching at the top of the zone, getting people to chase because everybody is looking at the launch angle with the bat, so maybe there are holes up there. He is able to capitalize on that."

Parker earned a scholarship from Kentucky because of the work he did the last season, building on repeating his delivery and honing his mechanics. With every one of his pitches coming from the same arm slot, hitters have difficulty deciphering the pitch type.

Arrington said consistency is the key for Parker. He said the coaching staff made sure to take advantage of Parker's unconventional delivery, but also his 6-foot-4 frame.

"How is he going to be more consistent? How is he going to be able to establish more strikes within the zone and understand how to move the ball around to keep him effective?" Arrington asked rhetorically. "A lot of players like him want to come in and keep the ball at the knees and work down there and so forth and that's always been a plus mindset. However, being able to adjust and pitch at the top of the zone (is a big deal). I work with (our pitching coach and former major league pitcher) Woody Williams, understanding there is more than just moving the ball in and out. Let's use what tools you have to make you a better pitcher."

Arrington liked when Parker would use his big frame to come down off the mound at the hitter.

"The work they put in every day just on the mechanics alone to repeat that delivery (is amazing)," Arrington said. "There is a lot of moving parts in his delivery. We wanted him to stand up a little bit taller, create more stature, have an easy step back to keep his body in line a little bit more."

Parker has the angle on that fastball and an almost unhittable curveball. But he also has a couple of other pitches that Arrington believes will be very effective at the next level - with some work.

"He ended up using the split much more effectively this year," Arrington said. "It was a type of split that just had a little but more fall-off. The split would go either down and in or down and away to a righty. But it was a hard, fast arm action-type pitch that create a swing and miss. It was more of chase type pitch that he would end up throwing. I could see that being used. He used another changeup, just a circle change, trying to get some movement away from a right-handed batter at times."

Kline said the Nationals would refine Parker's mechanics as the youngster gets his introduction to pro baseball. The southpaw has a ton of potential and shows the skill already to be able to throw those four pitches; he just needs to have pro coaches get their hands on him and just fine-tune those mechanics. Arrington agrees.

"There's still a little work (to do) in those pitches," Arrington said. "He's got the makeup of having possibly a four-pitch (repertoire). It will require a little bit of tweaking through the minor league system.

"Part of his growth this year was repeating that delivery, which allowed him a more of a strike-to-ball ratio. Improving upon the consistent delivery really helped him as he went through the shortened season this year."

Arrington was quick to point out what a joy it was to be around Parker and get to know him and his personality. His teammates gravitated to Parker because he was just fun to be around.

"Personality-wise, he's got a big smile on his face," Arrington said. "It's really enjoyable to be around. He's got a good sense of humor. He takes it to heart and it's all business, and he approaches it that way. He wants to compete and he wants to win and he wants to prove his worth. He's going to be a good one.

"He's always got a very, very positive outlook on things. He can come into a social environment and really catch on. He's easy to befriend. He's a good person. He cares for the younger players and other new players that came in."

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