.......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... ..........
Another June, another Major League draft, another New Mexico southpaw under the glass.
This year’s draft begins Monday, and Manzano High School’s 18-year-old Mitchell Parker anticipates a phone call before the draft ends. And the Monarchs’ 6-foot-4, 195-pounder has all but eliminated the gray area with regard to his preference.
“I definitely want to go play pro ball,” Parker, a University of Tennessee signee, said. “I’ve faced the best kids in the country and I’ve done pretty well against them. I feel it’s prepared me pretty good.”
For much of the last two calendar years, Parker has appeared from one coast of the country to the other in high-profile amateur events – all, either directly or indirectly, with a very keen eye cocked toward this particular week. This included a trip a few weeks ago to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a national pre-draft showcase, where he traveled nearly 2,000 miles just to throw a few pitches.
The most notable of his trips was an appearance last October in Jupiter, Fla. During a Perfect Game-sponsored tournament, and with a small army of scouts and officials from most every Major League team – a number estimated in the hundreds – Parker struck out 15 batters in five innings.
And while recent draftees like Cleveland’s Blake Swihart, Albuquerque Academy’s Alex Bregman and Carlsbad’s Trevor Rogers all went near the top of the draft, including Rogers with the No. 13 overall pick 12 months ago to the Miami Marlins, the consensus seems to be that Parker projects a bit lower than that trio.
“That’s a tough one,” said Tom Parker, Mitchell’s father. “If you look at all the rating agencies, you’d think he was going in the 12th round or something. And that may very well happen. But that doesn’t seem to be what we’re hearing. I’d say he’s a second-day guy.”
The first two rounds are Monday. Rounds 3-10 are Tuesday.
Parker said he has not definitively ruled out going to Tennessee, but all indications are that the Volunteers shouldn’t count on him, well, volunteering for college duty ahead of a pro contract if the offer meets his (undisclosed) financial criteria.
“It’s a good fallback if I need it,” Parker said.
“It’s nothing outrageous,” Tom Parker added, talking about the level of financial compensation he wants for his son. “But basically, our opinion is, we have to feel that the team’s offer is something that shows they have skin in the game and that it’s not just a flier and that he’ll get a chance.”
Which team will it be?
Perhaps tellingly, the Cubs, Mets and Red Sox asked Parker to pitch at pre-draft workouts earlier this week. But since the logistics of pitching in Boston, Chicago and New York’s spring training facility in Florida on consecutive days were unmanageable, Parker narrowed the list to just Chicago.
The Parkers felt the Cubs were the most bullish on Parker.
“As far as the draft goes, it’s a crazy process,” said Craig Rose, the Parker family adviser who is a partner at Dallas-based MSM Sports and serves as a go-between for the Parkers and major league teams. “What will it take to sign Mitchell Parker? That often dictates where he is on (draft) boards. Everybody has a personal preference.”
Parker on Thursday threw about 30 pitches for the Cubs brass at Wrigley Field, albeit in one of the stadium’s bunker-type bullpens underneath the outfield bleachers. The Cardinals, Red Sox, Royals, Cubs, Indians, Mariners, Nationals, Mets and Rockies have done home visits with Parker, who traveled extensively the last two years because he and his father felt that was the best avenue to get him seen by the right people.
“He’s ready to go to the next level, that’s for sure,” Tom Parker said. “All you have to do is look at him and see there’s a lot of projection left in him. He’s still a big kid. There are still another 30 pounds of man weight he has to put on himself before he really grows into his body.”
Baseball America has Parker ranked as the 281st best overall prospect (high school, JUCOs and Division I programs) in this draft and believes he’ll be taken somewhere in the first 10 rounds. “Parker will be a project for whichever team drafts him and won’t be a fast mover,” Baseball America remarked.
Perfect Game last week had Parker at No. 332. It rates him as a top-15 lefty from this high school class.
Parker went 5-4 with a 1.87 ERA last season at Manzano. He struck out 126 batters in 60 innings – he K’d 353 batters in 193 innings during his Monarchs career – and was certainly trending upward toward the end of the season with some of his most commanding outings.
But Parker also had intermittent control issues, walking 38 and hitting nine others. He said it was less about faulty mechanics than “probably more the mindset.”
One metro-area coach can appreciate Parker’s situation.
“If he can make adjustments that have kept him from being super successful, he’s obviously got the arm and the body and God-given talent to go a long way,” said Volcano Vista baseball coach Kevin Andersh, himself once a former first-round draft pick by Pittsburgh coming out of the University of New Mexico as a left-handed pitcher. “I had control problems (when I was young). I was able to work through some of that. He’s got the No. 1 tool, and that’s talent. He’s unhittable when he’s on.”
Rose said it is possible that Parker could even fall to a Day 3 round, which he described as “overpay” rounds. Teams, he said, will sometimes conserve money with draftees in earlier rounds so they can overpay in later rounds.
Parker said he picked Rogers’ brain a little bit last summer to get a clearer picture of how this process would play out.
“He told me to keep a level head … don’t get blinded by the lights,” Parker said.
What will Parker’s employer – whenever and whoever that is – be getting? He possesses a fastball with good movement consistently clocked in the low 90s, though Rose said he has been clocked as high as 94 mph, plus a promising breaking ball.
“What I liked about him was his competitiveness,” Rose said. “He is an uber-competitor. You have to be that kind of guy to step on the mound.”
Parker said he has no team higher on his wish list than any other.
“I don’t care,” he said. “I just want to get out and play. Whatever team that gives me an opportunity to do that is where I’ll go. I just want to go play professional baseball.”
Major League Baseball amateur draft, rounds 1-24 p.m., MLB, MLB.com