For the second straight season, the Oakland Athletics will begin Spring Training in Arizona with high hopes as they are expected to be playoff contenders in the AL West. Coming off of consecutive division titles, the team that is seemingly in a constant rebuild is actually built, and the A’s are winning despite many detractors mainly thanks to the prowess that GM Billy Beane has for wheeling and dealing with an often cash-strapped roster.
Perhaps Beane’s most important move over the next year will be to avoid arbitration with 25-year-old starting pitcher Jarrod Parker.
During the 2013 season, Parker made 32 starts, going 12-8 with a 3.97 ERA, which was up from 2012 (3.47) by exactly a half a run. Relying on hitters making contact and his ability to command his pitches, he features his fastball which tops out at 97 MPH and has a plus changeup to pair with it.
This gives him the ability to keep opposing hitters on their toes throughout an entire at-bat as he changes speeds. Hitters are often fooled into making feeble contact with the changeup, and he can be as dominating as any other pitcher in MLB when he has his best stuff.
While Parker’s season in 2013 was a bit of a step back from his first full season in the bigs in 2012, it has been rumored that he has bulked up over the winter in hopes the strategy will make the pitcher more durable after he was visibly tired during the stretch run. It was evident that the rigors of a long season got to Parker in August and September, but look for that to change in 2014 as he is only 25 and still getting stronger.