The minor league baseball season is just over a week old, so it’s difficult to take any statistics too seriously. With that said, the San Francisco Giants have to be hoping that outfielder Jarrett Parker’s early numbers are a good indication of what he is going to do in 2014. Spending his second year in Double-A after spending two seasons in High A, the former second-rounder is currently hitting .367 with a homer and five RBI.
The 25-year-old Parker was selected out of the University of Virginia in the 2010 MLB Draft. After having been a center fielder in college, the Giants made him primarily a right fielder, probably a wise move considering that Parker is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. Considering that the Giants jumped him straight to High A to begin his professional career, there were some high expectations for him, though they’ve gone largely unfulfilled thus far.
Parker hit .253 in his first year, which was particularly underwhelming in the hitter-friendly California League. He followed that up with an even less impressive .247 in 2012, though his increased power and plate discipline lifted him to a career-best .809 OPS. Last year, he hit .245 with a .430 slugging percentage, though those were slightly more impressive numbers in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League.
While his ability to make consistent contact has been frustrating, Parker’s biggest issue is his plate vision. After striking out in roughly 30 percent of his at-bats as a first-year player, his strikeout rates have been even worse over the past couple years, as he struck out in 42.8 percent of his at-bats in 2012 and 36 percent in 2013.
On the flip side, he’s become an increasingly threatening power hitter over each of his professional seasons. Parker has gone from 13 to 15 to 18 homers over his three full years in the Giants system, and judging by what he’s shown so far this year it wouldn’t be surprising to see him surpass those totals again this year.
It’s pretty obvious that despite his struggles, the Giants are trying to do everything they can to make Parker succeed. They sent him to the Arizona Fall League this past winter, where he put together a decent performance. He hit .300 over 60 at-bats, though he only had a .700 OPS, picking up just one extra-base hit and walking only eight times. On the bright side, however, he did cut down slightly on his strikeout rate, being punched 31.7 percent of the time.
This spring, Parker got another chance to prove himself on the big stage. Though he wasn’t an official non-roster invitee to major league camp, Parker participated in eight Cactus League games and received nine at-bats. While he only had two hits, one of those was a grand slam on the final day of Cactus League play that went roughly 440 feet to center field and over the 30-foot tall batter’s eye. It’s also worth noting that he got the start in left field during the Giants “futures” game, which pitted a team of top Giants prospects against major-leaguers.
Based on how he’s performed for the past few years, Parker probably does not have the upside to project as a future major-league regular. With that said, his raw tools—particularly his emerging power—could make him a candidate to serve as a big-league reserve at some point. If he’s going to solidify his candidacy to be a future major-leaguer, it would certainly be in his best interest to keep up the pace that he’s been at early in 2014, and hope that he can earn a call-up to Triple-A by midseason.