Mitchell Parker has been in MLB draft conversations since he was a senior at Manzano High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2018.
The left-handed pitcher was a 28th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2018. He bypassed on that opportunity to attended San Jacinto College in Houston last season. Parker pitched well throughout his freshman season of collegiate baseball but struggled at times with his command, which caused him to fall to the Tampa Bay Rays in the 27th round last year.
Parker rolled the dice and returned to San Jacinto in hopes of enhancing his draft stock this season. The sophomore hurler showed improved control in his first six starts before the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although Parker didn’t have a chance to pitch an entire season, he showed encouraging results this spring to improve his draft stock. His potential as a 6-foot-4, 230-pound left-hander makes him a sought after prospect and a potential top-five-round pick in this year’s draft.
“Right now, me and my family are just staying ready for it,” said Parker, who’s a University of Kentucky commit. “I’m still getting all my workouts in and everything. Either way, it’s a win-win situation with either signing a professional contract or going to play at Kentucky.”
As a freshman at San Jacinto last year, Parker posted a 1.54 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 45 walks allowed in 64 1/3 innings (13 starts).
Last summer, Parker went to Premier Pitching and Performance in St. Louis, Missouri in hopes of cleaning up his mechanics. Premier Pitching and Performance worked with Parker on his windup out of the stretch to help him repeat his delivery and throw strikes consistently.
The offseason work paid off this spring. Parker had a 1.19 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 18 walks allowed in 30 1/3 innings (six starts). He posted an 18.99 strikeouts per nine innings ratio.
Parker throws a four-seam fastball, curveball, splitter and changeup. He also mixed in a two-seamer this spring to keep hitters off-balanced.
He experienced an uptick in velocity with his above-average four-seamer this spring. The pitch sat consistently 91 to 94 mph and occasionally touched 96 mph.
His big-breaking mid-70s curveball serves as his put-away pitch.
“An overall strength for me is my confidence on the mound,” Parker said. “It doesn’t really matter who you put in the box against me, I’m going to attack them the same way and trust in myself that I am going to get the batter out. No one is going to intimidate me.”
His changeup is a work in progress and is an offering he hopes to refine.
With this spring season ending prematurely, Parker wants to stay in game shape in case he turns pro this summer. He also hopes to add strength to his frame to try to increase his fastball velocity.
“I just want to stay ready for games but put on as much muscle as I can while still being mobile as I can,” Parker said.
Parker made major strides in his development in his two years at San Jacinto. He creates his improvements on the mound to working with San Jacinto assistant coach Woody Williams, who pitched 15 years in the major leagues.
Parker also has pitched alongside other top pitching prospects at San Jacinto, including right-handers Jackson Rutledge and Brandon Birdsell and lefty Luke Little. Rutledge was a first-round pick by the Washington Nationals last year and Little and Birdsell are top prospects in this year’s draft.
“From when I left high school and got to San Jac, I am a completely different pitcher now,” Parker said. “In high school, I was the guy who got up on the mound and threw a lot harder than the guys I played against so it was just throwing fastballs past everybody.
“I tried that my freshman year at San Jac in the fall and it didn’t work out for me. From there, I had to grow up and become an actual pitcher instead of just a thrower.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.