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MLB Draft: Manzano alumnus Parker has eye-popping numbers and confidence

Mitchell Parker, who graduated two years ago from Manzano High School, has raised his draft stock, he believes, in the last year. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal file)

It’s five rounds for Major League Baseball. It’s the third round for Mitchell Parker.

An abbreviated MLB Draft begins Wednesday, with only 160 players slated to hear their names called this week. Parker, a 2018 Manzano High School graduate, is draft eligible for the third consecutive June.

“I would say it’s definitely a lot easier to stay calm, a lot slower going having gone through it two other times,” Parker, 20, said. “I know what to expect with it all.”

Parker already has been drafted twice. Coming out of Manzano, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound left-handed pitcher was selected in the 28th round two years ago by the Cubs. He bypassed Chicago’s offer and instead headed off to San Jacinto College in Texas.

Tampa Bay drafted him in the 27th round last year. Feeling he could improve his status, he spurned the Rays and returned to San Jacinto.

This year’s coronavirus-impacted draft has been shortened to five rounds, but Parker, who was having a sensational season at San Jacinto before the season was halted, said he likes his chances to be one of those 160 picks.

“I believe so, yeah,” he said. “I’m very confident.”

Based on his sophomore-season numbers at San Jacinto, he has cause to be.

Parker was 5-0 in six starts, yielding just four earned runs in 301/3 innings, with a JC nation-leading 64 strikeouts and a gaudy 1.19 ERA. His strikeouts-per-nine-inning ratio was a staggering 18.99.

Parker said his offseason work proved crucial.

He spent last summer in St. Louis with Premier Pitching and Performance (P3), a program that deployed high-tech methods to sharpen Parker’s mechanics and help him get a walks issue his freshman season more under control.

“I definitely cut down on my walks, which was a huge issue why I wasn’t able to sign last year,” he said. “(Going to P3) made my delivery more repeatable, and the pitches were going where they needed to be.”

By the end of the fall season at San Jacinto, and carrying over into the spring, “I noticed huge improvement,” Parker said.

Parker’s velocity runs 91-95 mph with his fastballs (four seamer and two seamer), and his sharp curveball remains a highly effective pitch. He also sports a changeup and splitter.

“With the way I’m developing, I would say absolutely it was a good decision not to sign (two years ago or last year),” Parker said. “I got to spend two years in college to figure myself out as a pitcher.

“In high school, I could just live with throwing the fastball right down the middle and not have to worry about anybody hitting anything. But after that, I had to grow up as a pitcher, thinking about how to attack the hitters.”

There was a March agreement between Major League Baseball and the players that reduced the MLB draft to five rounds. Undrafted players can sign for a maximum bonus of $20,000, and teams will be able to sign as many players as they wish.

“If my name gets called, then obviously I’m gonna accept it (the offer) this year,” he said. “If not, I’ll go to (the University of) Kentucky and go at it again next year.”

Parker originally was a University of Tennessee commit before changing to the Wildcats. He declined to say what MLB teams have been showing the most interest. Parker said he has an adviser serving as something of a buffer during this process.

Last summer in Missouri, Parker bunked for a while with San Jacinto teammate Jackson Rutledge, a St. Louis native and pitcher who was the first-round draft pick of the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals last June.

“It showed me what I wanted to work for,” Parker said, “to be where he was.”

And with all due respect to Kentucky, the focus for Parker is not to spend one more day in a college uniform.

“I’m ready to start my pro career,” he said.

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