To lefthander Mitchell Parker in his first minor league season, swing-and-miss stuff has come even more naturally than he realized.
The 2020 fifth-round pick from San Jacinto (Texas) JC struck out four batters in his first inning for Low-A Fredericksburg.
“It didn’t really register to me until after the game when somebody brought it up to me,” Parker said. “At the time, I was more just focused on trying not to think about the game, because it was definitely a lot of nerves out there for my first ever pro game.”
Parker said he also was on edge during last year’s draft, which was shortened to five rounds. He was taken 153rd overall out of 160 players, giving him a chance to sign for $100,000 instead of the 2020 nondrafted free agent maximum of $20,000. That was enough to lure him away from an offer to pitch his junior season at Kentucky.
Out of Manzano High in Albuquerque, Parker chose the junior college route over his first Southeastern Conference option with Tennessee. At San Jacinto, he learned from volunteer assistant coach and 132-game major league winner Woody Williams.
In 2019, he was part of a San Jac pitching staff that featured Jackson Rutledge, the Nationals’ first-round pick that year.
Despite the connection with Rutledge, Parker had no inkling that Washington would draft him.
“The Nationals actually completely caught me off guard until about 10 minutes before they called my name,” Parker said. “I was sitting there hoping. It was definitely very nerve-wracking.”
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Parker had 31 strikeouts and 10 walks through his first 18.2 innings in his first four starts. Fredericksburg pitching coach Pat Rice said Parker has plus-plus ride on his fastball, which pairs well with a curveball. Parker also throws a splitter and a changeup.
“His pitch counts have been terribly high, and it’s mostly because no one can hit him,” Rice said. “There have been a lot of swings and misses. He’s walked more guys than he needs to, but guys have had a hard time putting the ball in play against him.”
— Parker’s team got off to an ignominious start in its first season in Fredericksburg. The FredNats opened the season at 0-15, with a minus-115 run differential, before winning their first game.
— Team Israel will play one of its pre-Olympic tuneups at FNB Field, home of the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg. Former Senators catcher Nick Rickles is part of Team Israel, which will meet a Cal Ripken Collegiate League all-star team in Harrisburg on July 16.