In a move that has been widely anticipated in the desert since 2007, the D-backs have promoted right-handed flamethrower Jarrod Parker from Double-A Mobile to the big leagues, according to the team's Twitter account. Selected ninth overall in the 2007 draft, Parker has slotted in at number one on Baseball America's Top-10 list for the D-backs since after the 2008 season, and was ranked the second-best prospect in the system following the 2007 season.
Get this: until 2011's lists come out, the last time that Jarrod Parker wasn't the top-ranked prospect in Arizona's system according to BA, after the '07 season, he was one slot behind Carlos Gonzalez and one slot ahead of Brett Anderson. The last list that Parker wasn't on at all had a top-10 of Justin Upton, Chris Young, Gonzalez, Alberto Callaspo, Miguel Montero, Micah Owings, Mark Reynolds, Dustin Nippert, Tony Pena, and Anderson. It's been a long wait, folks.
Parker didn't pitch in 2007 after signing with Arizona, though Baseball America still rated him as the 46th-best prospect in baseball that off-season. instead beginning his career in 2008 at Low-A South Bend. Parker started 24 games for the Silver Hawks that year at just 19 years old, working a closely-monitored 117.2 innings but posting a 117:33 K:BB ratio and 3.44 ERA. Parker left a great impression on scouts with his blazing fastball and wipeout slider, jumping up BA's list to 29th in the game. The following season started spectacularly, with Parker dominating Hi-A Visalia in just four starts, striking out 21 and walking just four in 19 innings for the Rawhide with a 0.95 ERA, earning a promotion to Double-A as a 20-year-old.
Parker continued posting solid numbers for the BayBears, starting 16 games for Mobile that year with a 74:34 K:BB ratio in 78.1 innings, posting a 3.68 ERA and looking well on his way to being one of the best pitching prospects in the game. Unfortunately, that's exactly when disaster struck, as Parker felt a pop in his elbow, and, after attempts to rehab the injury failed, was forced to undergo Tommy John ligament replacement surgery to replace his Ulnar Collateral Ligament, inspiring the title of my personal archive blog. The D-backs were conservative with his rehabilitation, holding him out of game action for the entire 2010 season and bringing him back in Fall Instructs last year before having him spend some time out of the bullpen for the D-backs in major league Spring Training.
After Spring Training, Parker returned to Mobile for the regular season and progressed through the typical roller-coaster-like recovery from Tommy John. Command wobbles haunted him early in the year, as he sported a 9.00 ERA through his first four outings (his month of April), and ended the first half of the season with a 4.87 ERA in 13 starts, posting a 56:33 K:BB ratio in 61 innings with 55 hits and seven home runs allowed. The second half, however, went much more smoothly for Parker, as his control started to return and his walk-rate and home run-rate both fell spectacularly. In 69.2 innings (13 starts) after the All-Star Break, Parker posted a 56:22 K:BB ratio, giving up 57 hits, none of which left the park, and posting a phenomenal 2.84 ERA. Parker then excelled in his two post-season starts as the BayBears made their run for the Southern League Championship, working 12 innings with a 12:3 K:BB ratio, allowing nine hits (one home run) and two runs in a pair of BayBears wins.
Before his surgery, Parker was known for his blazing fastball and plus slider, with his change-up a distant third pitch. The elbow problems have made him more reluctant to use the slider, and while that remains a plus offering when he commands it, the big difference between pre-surgery Parker and post-surgery Parker is the development in his change-up, which is now Parker's most-used secondary offering and also a plus pitch, giving him three major weapons to get hitters out. His four-seam fastball sits in the 94-96 mph range, amping it up to 97 or even 98 on occasion when he reaches back for extra velocity. He also added a two-seam fastball right around the middle of the 2011 season, which dips more into the 92-94 mph range but features significantly more movement and was a big reason for him keeping his home run count so low in the second half of the season.
One of the few not-purely-stats guys over at FanGraphs, Mike Newman, wrote a piece back in early September about Parker that includes some video of him pitching against Chattanooga of the Dodgers' system earlier this year and walking away very impressed. (Link).
To make room for Parker on the club's 40-man Roster, minor-league infielder Tommy Manzella was designated for assignment. Manzella had been claimed by the D-backs as extra middle-infield insurance after being DFA'd by Houston earlier in the year.