Here is my claim to fame – Caleb Thielbar. He lived kitty-corner to my house and we played basketball together in high school (which he hated, but was recruited to play division one in college). Either way, he was a two star athlete in Minnesota and went to South Dakota State University for four years and was drafted by the Brewers this summer in the 19th round. Not that we were great friends, but we know each other and I will continuously watch him (hopefully) progress through the minors. Enough with my narcissism and attempt to claim some fame.
Drafted out of high school as the ninth pick in the first round in 2007 from an obscure town in Indiana, Parker has since marveled hundreds, possibly even thousands, with his fastball that seems to zip out of his hand from an effortless delivery. What makes that fastball so special? Well, that would be how it is clocked anywhere from 94 mph to 98 mph without Parker straining his mechanics. He also throws a power slider and a tight curve along with a change-up. Up until this year, his slider was his go-to pitch with his curve lacking consistency. However, this year in an interview he stated that he regards both as good pitches and is comfortable throwing either – but the slider is still his out-pitch. In high school, he never needed to throw a change-up and thus only started to throw it in the minor leagues. Interestingly, he had great feel for the pitch and it’s at least an average to above-average pitch. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Scouts and coaches claim he has great polish and personally, he seems to be a natural. With comparisons to Tim Lincecum, he has a lot to live up to.
08 (A) 8.95 K/9 | 2.52 BB/9 | 117 1/3 IP | .61 HR/9 | 3.44 ERA | 1.24 WHIP
09 (totals) 8.8 K/9 | 3.5 BB/9 | 97 1/3 IP | 3.14 ERA | 1.35 WHIP
09 (A+) 9.95 K/9 | 1.89 BB/9 | 19 IP | 0 HR/9 | .95 ERA | .84 WHIP
09 (AA) 8.5 K/9 | 3.91 BB/9 | 78 1/3 IP | .23 HR/9 | 3.68 ERA | 1.48 WHIP
Coming out of high school really limited the number of innings that Parker could pitch in 2008 as the Diamondbacks kept a tight pitch limit. Consequently, he never pitched more than seven innings, and he only pitched to seven once in 2008. Nevertheless, he showed why he was drafted so high. Due to his diminutive size, some people were led to believe that he wouldn’t succeed in a starting pitching role. He has proved them wrong since (he has a Roy Oswalt, Lincecum, and an Ian Snell like build) and has pitched like the star Arizona believes him to be. The K-rates are pretty, and the walks just became an issue this year upon his promotion to AA. This could be caused by “elbow tightness” that caused him to be DL’d on August 5th this year which lead to a visit to Dr. Freeze’s office (aka, Dr. James Andrew). This is either a bad thing or a precautionary visit. I am hoping the latter because of his repertoire of fastball/slider combo. Think of it this way (and this is how my mind is thinking too): Josh Johnson vs Francisco Liriano. Johnson has a fastball/change-up combo and Liriano has a fastball/slider combo. Which one is having a better year this year? That is why I am a tad fearful. Take the injury away, and I am gaga over Parker, though not like Mary Jane (sorry, I couldn’t resist any longer. It’s been eating at me the whole article).
Just like Parker, Vitters was drafted in 2007 out of high school, but with a ton more hype. Playing baseball in southern California must do that to you. After lengthy contact negotiations, much like Strasburg, he missed any chance of playing in the summer leagues. Thus, he played in some Short Season ball too (just 51 AB in both Rookie and Short Season play). Looking forward to the 2008 season and actually hitting the ball (.118 Ave in those 51 AB), Vitters hurt his wrist in spring training. He attempted to play through the pain, but eventually had a two month disabled list trip. Consequently, this caused him to play Short Season again with 259 AB and no more injuries to his wrist.
After two mediocre years of minor league play, Vitters has finally turned it around this year hitting for a slash line of .289/.320/.471; but why is he still such a promising prospect? He has a smooth swing with above average power and little defensive skills. He drives the ball to the gaps well, is extremely “coachable,” has soft hands, a strong arm, below average range at third base, and has been compared to Pat Burrell. For a number three pick in the draft I think I would rather have more qualities than what I just listed off. Either way, this is what the Cubs have in Vitters and here are his stats so far:
07 (totals) .118/.164/.118 | 51 AB | 0/0 HR/2B | 30 K% | 3.2 BB%
08 (totals) .322/.365/.495 | 273 AB | 5/28 HR/2B
08 (A-) .214/.214/.429 | 14 AB | 0/3 HR/2B | 35.7 K% | 0 BB%
08 (SS) .328/.365/.498 | 259 AB | 5/25/.170 HR/2B/ISO | 17.4 K% | 4.8 BB%
09 (totals) .289/.320/.471 | 400AB | 16/17 HR/2B
09 (A) .316/.351/.535 | 269 AB | 15/12/.219 HR/2B/ISO | 15.6 K% | 2.5 BB%
09 (A+) .237/.254/.328 | 131 AB | 1/5/.094 HR/2B/ISO | 13.4 K% | 1.6 BB%
I sure hope that his smooth swing keeps swinging away as he walks less, or about the same as Delmon Young. Folks, that isn’t a compliment. Matter of fact, those K-rates … those are similar to Delmon Young too. Some positives, he started to finally hit for power this year, both gap and fence power. Not to be a Debbie Downer or to have a Vitters Vendetta, but I don’t trust those peripherals numbers. Scouts predicted that he would be in the majors by late 2010 and that was before this season started. This is all speculation, but I would expect to see him in early 2011 actually. He needs to develop patience, but Baseball America relayed that the Cubs were waiting for him to gain some confidence in his hitting before making adjustments to his approach. I smell bust. Maybe by the end of the year and starting next spring I will think differently. However, at this point I don’t really see him making it the majors and if he does, succeeding.