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Jarrett Parker is both promising and dangerous

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The Giants have a lot of faith in Parker. What will he do in 2017?

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants

Jarrett Parker is a career .267/.371/.494 hitter in 205 major league plate appearances. That’s magnificent. If he hit like that for a full season, he would probably finish in the top 20 in National League MVP voting. Maybe higher. It would be an absolute coup for the Giants. All he would have to do is what he’s already done, just three times longer.

Jarrett Parker is 28. He has a career OPS of .823 in the minors, which isn’t exceptional for a corner outfielder, especially one who’s spent a lot of time in the California League and the Pacific Coast League. He’s struck out in 29.6 percent of his minor league plate appearances. His strikeout-per-at-bat ratio in the minors (one strikeout for every 2.88 at-bats) would be the highest in Giants history. The catch is that he’s more likely to strike out in the majors, which means those numbers don’t just exactly transfer over. He has a chance to blow the franchise record away.

Both paragraphs are true. Parker is a hitter with success in the majors. He’s a hitter with concerning flaws and contact issues, and it’s hard to see that changing. But he’s been successful. But he comes with a lot of red flags. But he’s been successful. But he comes with a lot of red flags. But ...

You can see the dilemma, here.

The first step in resolving this is by repeating the number of plate appearances. That would be “205.” That’s not a lot. He has 2,820 in the minors, and according to FanGraphs, 2,820 is actually bigger number than 205. That means it’s a more trustworthy sample.

However, there’s something weird going on with Parker. Let’s take a look at his career:

Class-A: .781 OPS
Double-A: .806 OPS
Triple-A: .897 OPS

What in tarnation. This makes no sense. Some of this (especially between Richmond and Sacramento) is attributable to park effects, but if you’re going down that path, then Parker’s .865 OPS in the majors is basically continuing the trend. He keeps getting better the higher he goes.

It’s also worth noting his career 2.71 AB/SO mark wouldn’t be the worst in baseball, either. It would be better than Chris Davis, for example. Ryan Schimpf hit 20 homers for the Padres last year while striking out more. He happened to be 28, too.

The Giants seem comfortable enough in Parker that they’re giving him the job after an offseason of aggressively not looking for an outfielder. There was no J.D. Martinez. If there was interest in Yoenis Cespedes, it was his agent calling the Giants, not the other way around. Other, clompier solutions, like Brandon Moss, didn’t even garner a courtesy rumor. That’s a good sign. After years of team-wide success, the Giants have turned me into an appeal-to-authority type, and if they like Parker as a starter, I guess I’ll like Parker as a starter!

On the other hand, the Giants have had a lot of success, but none of it has been with young outfielders. Here is a horrifying search of every Giants outfielder under the age of 28 from the last 25 years, homegrown or not. If you had to rank them, it would go something like ...

  1. Marvin Benard
  2. Melky Cabrera
  3. Nate Schierholtz
  4. Armando Rios
  5. Fred Lewis
  6. No, seriously, these are the best under-28 outfielders from the last quarter century
  7. Deion Sanders
  8. Juan Perez
  9. Jacob Cruz?
  10. Probably Brian Horwitz or something, look, just stop

So you can understand our skepticism when it comes to Parker. He’s a young-ish Giants outfielder, which makes him an endangered species from the moment he puts the uniform on and steps onto the outfield grass. Trusting him to be something of a baseball rarity — a late-20s long-time minor leaguer who comes into his own in the majors — would be a stretch for any franchise. That’s probably six times more applicable to the Giants, for whatever reason.

On the other hand, it used to be that the Giants couldn’t develop hitters at all. You didn’t need to qualify it with “outfielders.” Between Matt Williams and Pablo Sandoval, it was a rough, rough stretch. Now the Giants have a mostly homegrown infield, and by next year, it could be entirely homegrown again. The old canard about not developing hitters sure went away when they started, you know, developing hitters. It could be the same with outfielders. All it will take are outfielders.

The important things to remember about Parker is that a) he can’t hit left-handers, b) that seems bad, and c) there’s probably a way around that. Either Chris Marrero or Justin Ruggiano is going to make the team, most likely, and Parker is a huge part of that. There aren’t a lot of left-handed starters in the National League anymore — though there are two you might have heard of on the Dodgers — so calling it a platoon isn’t entirely right. Parker will get the bulk of the starts, either way.

This entire post is fraught with conflict, I apologize. I used “on the other hand” twice, but I could have done it about six times. Parker is trusted by the Giants, and he’s gotten better on his path to the majors. Parker has trouble making contact, and he’s not at an age where you should expect substantial improvement.

So you figure out which Parker we should expect. Because I’m flummoxed over here. ZiPS says we’ll get 449 plate appearances of .224/.312/.398. If he hit like that, he probably wouldn’t get 449 plate appearances. At the same time, that’s worth a win because of defense, baserunning, and power. Which would be okay?

I guess just plug the ol’ nose and dive in.

Jarrett Parker, 2017 (projected)
PA: 352
BA: .240
OBP: .331
SLG: .389
HR: 14
SB: 5
WAR: 1.3

(All the WAR are Baseball-Reference, by the way, if you’re playing the home version of our game.)

I’ll go a little better than FanGraphs, but not much. Parker should be competent and he’ll run into a few baseballs, so hopefully his timing is stellar. I just can’t shake the Ghosts of Outfield Past, and I’ve consumed more “on the other hand”s than the FDA recommends. The Giants won’t have to look for an outfielder at the trade deadline, but I’m guessing there will be at least a few rumors.