RHP Bobby Parnell will make his triple-A debut tonight for New Orleans. He was promoted from double-A Binghamton over the weekend. He takes Claudio Vargas’s place while the veteran deals with inflammation in his elbow. Parnell, the Mets ninth round pick in 2005 out of Charleston Southern, represents a strong data point in the Mets recent ability to find solid value when drafting pitchers. In order to provide an impact at the big league level, he’ll need to continue to improve his off-speed offerings.
Parnell leaves double-A with a 10-6 record and a 4.30 ERA to go along with 91 strikeouts and 57 walks in 127.2 IP. After May 1, he was 9-3 with a 2.69 ERA. In his most recent 105 IP, he had 78 strikeouts and 43 walks.
Despite pitching at double-A at the end of the 2007 season, Parnell had a really rough April, 2008. His explanation for the ups and downs of the season: “Early on, I think I was just trying to do too much and wasn’t able to relax on the mound, pushing a little bit too hard. Lately, I’ve been getting in a good rhythm early. Maybe staying in my rhythm has helped me out.”
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Parnell describes his pitching philosophy simply, “I just want to go out there and relax on the mound and fill up the strike zone with some strikes and go after the hitters.”
This attitude was on full display when I saw Parnell on Friday, August 1st, in New Britain, a start also attended by GM Omar Minaya and other members of the Mets hierarchy. Parnell went six innings that night, giving up three runs on seven hits, two of which were homers. He didn’t walk a batter, nor did he appear to be attempting to be too fine with his location having learned his lesson from early in the year.
Parnell’s best pitches are his fastballs. He mostly threw his fastball in the low nineties, and touched 97 five times while sitting 91-93 consistently. He uses both a two and a four seam fastball. “The four-seamer, I can throw right down the middle and it kinda sinks a bit” he says, whereas “the two-seamer runs a little bit.” The two seamer is on display in this video.
I don’t have video of his two other offerings, a slider that he threw 81-83 mph and changeup 84-86. He was hurt in the second inning, when a hanging slider turned into a homer. Parnell realizes that this is an area he must improve on, “I’d like to get sharper with my slider control,” he summarized. This is a must.
Parnell was clearly working his off-speed stuff and changeup in particular. He often threw his change early in counts to lefthanders, exactly according to plan. B-Mets Pitching Coach Ricky Bones, just wanted Parnell to keep throwing the changeup on the theory that it would only be effective if he threw it. Parnell struggled to locate the changeup, which needs work.
One cool feature of Parnell’s start: the dreaded fake-to-third, look-to-first pickoff move that fans love to boo, actually worked. Video evidence below.
Look the FAKE to Third Play Works!
EDIT: So where does this leave Parnell and what's his future role?
The breaking balls he showed in his final AA appearances simply weren't good enough consistently to see him as an MLB starter yet. In a perfect world, he continues to refine those pitches and could hang in a big league rotation, but I think that's becoming less likely. Watch his AAA numbers, particularly his strikeouts, walks and hits/inning carefully to determine whether the breaking balls are becoming more effective.
More likely, his future is in the bullpen. One scout said he put a "45" on Parnell. In the scale where 50 is MLB average, this means he would be a middle reliever. With his fastball alone, he could be a bullpen component in relatively short order.
Bobby Parnell From the Side