Blake Parker did not pitch in the majors last year, and he really didn't even pitch in the minors. Despite an interesting profile, the Cubbies decided that Parker wasn't worth a 40-man roster spot or even worth taking up a spot on their Triple-A roster, and the rest of major league baseball agreed.
However, our pride and joy Jerry Dipoto doesn't see eye to eye with the rest of major league baseball. He's a visionary. A leader. A dreamer. He understands that Parker can add value to an organization, and signed him to a minor league contract this offseason with an invitation to spring training. He's competing for a spot on the big league roster, and I am of the opinion that he deserves to at least be seriously considered for a role.
Parker relies on mostly a three-pitch mix: a fastball, a curveball, and a splitter. Parker's fastball sits in the low 90s, and he doesn't really have it in him to reach back for more, as he has yet to touch 95 MPH in his MLB career. His fastball command is, shall we say, not so good. It's clear why Parker gives up many fly balls, as his four-seamer sits in the middle to upper half of the zone. He'll groove about one-in-five of his heaters, helping to explain why hitters are willing to swing at half of them.
The curveball, seen below, is Parker's bread and butter. Hitters miss Uncle Charlie Parker twice every five swings, and lefties specifically miss on about half their swings. This curveball is why Parker has a reverse platoon split in his brief MLB career, which is entirely useful for a reliever fighting to pitch in Safeco field, which plays more favorably to left-handed hitters.
Parker's third offering is a splitter, which also helps in maintaining a reverse platoon split. His splitter, as you can see below, isn't what you'd call overwhelming, and he throws in less than 10% of the time. Like all mediocre splitters, misses are turned into homers -- just ask Bobby Ayala.
While his fastball isn't all that fast and his control isn't all that good, Parker has worked his way into some solid results. Parker strikes out over a quarter of the batters he faces, and strikes out around 3.5 men for every one he walks. His clear issues are the home run ball and results on balls in play, both of which can be correlated with grooving fastballs and missing with hanging splitters. Parker's .350 BABIP in 2014, however, is likely due to somewhat fluky results, and should be expected to come back down to the .300 range, especially as an extreme fly-ball pitcher, who typically give up fewer hits.
We're looking at just 74 big league appearances spread over three seasons, but these numbers do not reflect a reliever who was without an organization for the majority of last season.
The Potential Hangup
Even if Parker seemingly works his way into a spot in the bullpen this spring, the Mariners lack an incentive to opt for him over other options, as he's signed to a minor league contract and not on the 40-man roster. It's easy to clear a 40-man spot -- Steve Baron, anyone? -- but the team would also potentially run the risk of losing one of their other options.
Even with Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook ailing, Parker's chances of making the team are slim, if not non-existent. The team has narrowed in on Joel Peralta as their preferred minor league veteran, but Parker is a great arm to have around, even if the Cubs disagree. Screw those Cubs.