Diminutive Parker Rises Quickly

INDIANAPOIS’”Jarrod Parker’s wakeup moment, the one that he might
reflect back on one day and consider the significance of, occurred in
the summer of 2005.

It came in the form of an invitation to the
Area Code Games, a prominent showcase for high school players in Long
Beach, one typically reserved for rising seniors. Many amateur baseball
observers around Fort Wayne, Ind., already knew the spindly righthander
had loads of talent. They just weren’t sure he had realized it quite
yet.

“He started believing in himself,” said Mark DeLaGarza,
Parker’s manager with the Fort Wayne-based Summit City Sluggers summer
team and a part-time scout for the Twins. “He came back from that a
much more focused and confident kid.”

Parker doesn’t dispute the assessment.

“I had success against some of the best players in the country,” he said. “That helped a lot.”

An
excellent athlete, Parker soon gave up competitive basketball, another
sport he excelled at, and began focusing his attention on his delivery.
He worked at developing a relaxed, easy motion. His family moved to
suburban Fort Wayne and he transferred from Wayne High to Norwell, an
emerging baseball power.

It figures to pay off in the draft,
almost certainly in the form of a spot in the first round, perhaps as
high as 10th overall. He has committed to Georgia Tech, which Parker
said offered him a full scholarship. If he goes to school, Parker plans
to study management.

But an immediate professional career may be more likely.

“Is
he signable? Absolutely he’s signable,” said his father Brent. “He
wants to go pro and he wants to do it out of high school, if everything
is right.”

The elder Parker said the family hasn’t decided on
what an appropriate bonus might be. Their adviser is Larry Reynolds,
the same agent who represents two former high school draftees: Devil
Rays infielder B.J. Upton, the second overall pick in 2002, and his
brother Justin, the No. 1 pick in 2005.

Gaining Ground

Parker’s
debut this season was superb. He came out of the gate with 98 mph heat
and struck out nine in a three-inning outing. There were more than 50
scouts at one of his outings later in May, where Parker gave up his
first two runs of the season, but he still flashed mid-90s velocity. He
was 7-0, 0.20 with 68 strikeouts and six walks in his first seven
starts. Parker had allowed just 10 hits in 34 innings. His changeup is
usually around 75-76 mph. He also possesses a sharp slider.

“Quick,”
was how Norwell catcher Rhett Goodmiller described Parker’s pitches.
“It gets on you. His fastball can run some. His curveball really breaks
in on you, then he comes back with that slider.”

Parker doesn’t
have the look of a power pitcher. He checked in at 6 feet, 166 pounds
last summer and is listed as 6-foot-1, 175 pounds on Norwell’s roster.
He says an intense offseason weight training program raised his weight
to about 183.

The comparisons range from Tim Hudson to Roy
Oswalt, two slightly built righthanders who are among the most
effective pitchers in the game. Though Scott Kazmir is lefthanded, the
Devil Rays diminutive flamethrower might be the most appropriate
comparison because, like Parker, Kazmir was so electric at a young age.

“I
can see the righthanded Scottt Kazmir comparison, but he has more
velocity than Kazmir had out of high school,” another scout said. “I’d
compare him to (2006 Giants first-rounder) Tim Lincecum. He doesn’t
have that kind of curveball as Lincecum but he’s stronger and bigger
than Lincecum.”

Against The Grain

The
bias against high school righthanders, who are perceived as riskier
picks by some teams, emerges in some form each year, and Parker is this
year’s poster boy for the debate.

“They’re like 6-4 shooting
guards,” a former scout said. “There’s a million of them. To be rated
that high, you’ve got to be able to throw three pitches for strikes,
and obviously, you’ve got to have the velocity.”

Which is exactly what Parker has proven this spring.

“He’s
the real deal,” another scout said. “He throws easy, even at 98. He may
be 6 feet tall but he still throws downhill. It’s an unbelievable quick
arm. You just don’t see arms like that.”

The fact Parker is considered a lock for the first round is an indication of how scouts view his potential.

Norwell
started the season 21-0 and was ranked No. 1 in Class 3-A, Indiana’s
second-largest of four classes. They likely still will be playing in
the state tournament on June 7, the first day of the draft.

Parker
said he hopes to go home from practice, have his mother make some warm
cookies, then watch the draft. He’s a White Sox fan, but said he
doesn’t care which team selects him.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Parker said. “I want to go early, but I really just want to play ball.”

Michael Pointer covers high school sports for the Indianapolis Star.

High School | #2007

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