The Chicago Cubs made another round of Spring Training cuts this morning. Among them was top prospect Javier Baez, who will definitely get the most attention. Baez was very impressive this spring, making many fans think he should start the season in Chicago, but Baez simply needs more time in the minors to work on his plate discipline and defense. While Baez will certainly be the most discussed, the most surprising player on his way to minor league camp is relief pitcher Blake Parker.
Parker is a talented 28-year-old right-handed pitcher, who really established himself as a legitimate MLB late-inning reliever last season. In 49 relief appearances, Parker had a 2.72 ERA, struck out an impressive 10.7 batters per nine innings and only walked 2.9 per nine in 2013. Parker has great velocity and movement on his pitches, and showed the potential to be an important piece of the Cubs’ bullpen for a very long time.
Unfortunately, Parker was not able to capitalize on his opportunity this spring, as he struggled mightily with his control. He walked six batters in his six innings of work this spring and gave up, you guessed it, six earned runs. Obviously, it was a small sample size, so take the numbers for what they are worth, but Parker was not able to prove himself, and the Cubs decided to go in a different direction to start the season.
While his struggles this spring certainly did not help, the Cubs’ bullpen is looking mighty crowded and Parker was an easy candidate to send down. He still has options remaining so the Cubs could freely send him back to the minors and not risk losing him to waivers. Alberto Cabrera is a talented RHP who has looked promising in the minors, but it has yet to translate to the big leagues. The Cubs are not ready to give up on Cabrera, but he is out of minor league options. If he did not make the roster out of Spring Training, it is very unlikely that the Cubs would have been able to keep Cabrera in the minors.
While other pitchers are involved, this seemingly came down to Cabrera versus Parker. With Parker not forcing the Cubs to put him on the MLB roster because of his poor spring, the decision became easy because of his minor league options. He is still a very talented pitcher who will almost certainly be the first bullpen pitcher to be called to the big league team this season. I think this is just a minor bump in the road in what looks to be a promising career.