Parker impresses with strikeouts, needs to cut down walks


Age on opening day 2024: 24

How acquired: Drafted in fifth round in 2020 from San Jacinto College (Houston)

Ranking: No. 25 per MLB Pipeline, No. 30 per Baseball America

MLB ETA: 2024
* Projected by MLB Pipeline

Signing bonus: $100,000

2023 levels: Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester

2023 stats: 9-7, 4.72 ERA, 28 G, 26 GS, 124 IP, 115 H, 70 R, 65 ER, 13 HR, 61 BB, 150 SO, 0 HBP, 1.419 WHIP

Quotable: “We're adjusting. Definitely some hiccups here and there. But I would say overall, we're starting to get over some things and starting to really figure it out. I'm figuring out a lot about myself as a pitcher and (Harrisburg pitching coach Joel Hanrahan) is definitely helping there, too. So I'd say we're going in the right direction.” – Mitchell Parker

2023 analysis: Parker was twice drafted in the late-20s rounds before the Nationals made him a fifth-round pick in 2020 from San Jacinto College in Houston, the same junior college as Jackson Rutledge the year before.

The left-hander made a strong impression in his first two years in the organization. Between Single-A Fredericksburg and High-A Wilmington in 2021, his 144 strikeouts were the second-most in the Nats system, behind only top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli. Parker then spent all of 2022 at Wilmington, where his 2.88 ERA was the lowest among all South Atlantic League pitchers with at least 100 innings. If not for Cavalli’s strong season at Triple-A, Parker would have been up for the Nats’ minor league Pitcher of the Year Award last year.

But after those impressive first two seasons, Parker had to adjust to pitching at the upper levels this year.

The southpaw spent most of the season with Harrisburg, where he went 9-6 with a 4.20 ERA, 1.355 WHIP, 132 strikeouts and 54 walks in 113 ⅔ innings over 25 outings, 23 of which were starts. He also posted impressive strikeouts-per-nine-innings (10.5), strikeout-to-walk (2.44) and home-runs-per-nine-innings (0.8) rates.

Parker received a promotion to Rochester in September, and he made three starts for the Red Wings before season’s end. He gave up 12 runs on 11 hits (three homers) and seven walks with 10 strikeouts in a combined 6 ⅓ innings over his first two Triple-A starts. But he finished strong with four shutout innings of four-hit ball with no walks and eight strikeouts in his last outing.

Despite the high strikeout numbers, walks were still a problem for the lefty. His walks-per-nine-innings rate has increased each time he’s moved up a level throughout his career, going from 4.3 at Double-A to 6.1 at Triple-A in 2023.

2024 outlook: The Nationals still think highly of Parker’s potential, which often draws him comparisons to Clayton Kershaw.

His high arm slot and windup give him a low-90s fastball that rides well to the top of the zone (a la Sean Doolittle). Parker induces a lot of swings and misses on that pitch as batters can’t reach offerings that high. He also gets whiffs with his low-80s curveball (currently his only above-average pitch).

Parker has worked to include a changeup and splitter to his repertoire, both of which need some improvement. The former appears to be his best third option for now.

The focus for Parker this season was the aforementioned free passes. Though he did technically bring his walk rate down from 12.6 in 2022 to 11.3 this year, it’s still too high for the Nationals’ liking. If he can’t cut that down more dramatically, his stuff, arm angle and two-pitch-heavy arsenal may be best suited for the bullpen.

Nonetheless, the Nats selected Parker’s contract last week to add him to the 40-man roster and protect him from next month's Rule 5 draft, along with fellow pitching prospects Cole Henry, Zach Brzykcy and DJ Herz.

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