Can Gerardo Parra Break Out Of Fourth Outfielder Role With Arizona Diamondbacks In 2013?

By Thom Tsang
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Gerardo Parra just can’t catch a break with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

At 4.8 fWAR over the last two seasons, the outfielder is a top-50 outfielder in the league, with numbers that compare favorably to those of Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo. Yet, on the Diamondbacks, he was just a fourth outfielder fighting for playing time from the bench with players like Chris Young and Justin Upton.

Well, two-thirds of that outfield are gone now, but their departure hasn’t changed much about Parra’s situation with the team.

Going into the 2013 season, the 25-year-old will still be looking from the outside in for regular at-bats, being slotted behind the trio of Cody Ross, Adam Eaton and Jason Kubel in the depth charts.

That’s probably not the most tenable situation for the lefty, who doesn’t have the power of a player like Kubel, nor the speed of Eaton, but is otherwise more better than average in just about every category, as a .280/.332/.400 triple-slash and two straight 15-steal seasons would indicate.

On most other teams, Parra would probably be good enough to start. In Arizona, he’ll have to fight for his playing time on a daily basis.

“I think it was harder last year.” That’s how the outfielder described his situation with the D-Backs, who will be dealing with their four-outfielder problem all season unless a trade changes things. It’s a good problem, though, and manager Kirk Gibson thinks that the team can put a plan in place that could serve to benefit all four outfielders.

The team is planning on giving each player anywhere from 450-500 at bats, though a hot hand could end up tweaking those numbers. That would be an improvement for Parra, who received just 385 at-bats in 133 appearances in 2012 after the arrival of Kubel diminished what would have been a starting role.

There will be an opportunity for Parra to get it back this Spring. But, to do so, he’ll have to continue playing the type of defense that won him a gold glove in 2011, while improving at the plate after putting up a .727 OPS last season.

His mix of speed, contact and a splash of power could make him a 10-20 player with the type of at bats that the team are planning on giving him, and if there’s a likely candidate that Parra could take playing time away from, it’s probably Ross, who profiles to have more power, but less speed and defensive abilities. Still, Parra’s Swiss army-like versatility may actually ply against him in this fight, as having the ability to play all three outfield spots means that the team might be less inclined to stick him in any one of them.

It’s not something Parra can dwell on right now – not when he’s getting ready to play for Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic, anyway.

No, being the fourth outfielder isn’t necessarily the situation that Parra thought he’d be in by now, but he’s dealt with it and succeeded before.

But if he can keep it up for just a little longer, a secure starting job might be his yet.

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