True, Chris Parmelee posted one of baseball’s best weighted On-Base Averages (wOBA) in the past month. He raked to the tune of .355/.443/.592 with four home runs and six doubles in just shy of a hundred plate appearances. And, all in all, it was one of the best September call-up performances in recent memory.
Still, it is difficult to project a player’s true capabilities just based on a one-month sampling – even if you are combining it with his recent minor league track record.
To be sure, there is plenty to like about Parmelee’s potential just based on his smattering of at bats this year:
- He has shown a keen understanding of the strike zone. His 28% out-of-zone chase rate was below the league’s average meaning he was not helping the pitchers’ out. Because of this, he was able to draw 12 walks (compared to 13 strikeouts).
- Likewise, he keeps his hands back to handle breaking and off-speed stuff extremely well. This led to a low swing-and-miss rate of 22% on curves/sliders along with a .813 slugging percentage as several of his balls in play went for extra bases. Not chasing breaking stuff out of the strike zone will tend to result in a smaller strikeout rate.
- Mechanically, he keeps his hands inside the ball too. This has allowed him to get around quickly on the inside pitch and drive it. Keeping one’s hands in can equate to more power from that leveraged position while incorporating the entire body (rather than swinging with just your arms).
These elements are solid building blocks for a fundamentally sound hitter. Additionally, Parmelee has also shown that he can make modifications too. Beginning two years ago, he axed his upper-cut swing in favor of a more leveled one. This yielded an almost immediate difference in his performance as he cut down on the amount of strikeouts and increased his line drive rate substantially:
TwinsCentric’s Nick Nelson did a thorough job of analyzing Parmelee’s cup of coffee and pumping the brakes for those who yearn for something to believe in with this organization. Nelson particularly advised about getting too amped up over his power output based on his September numbers – which I completely agree with. While Parmelee has a powerful swing and, at 24 years old in 2012, he could develop more pop, at the same time, there are plenty of similar prospects who have murdered it in a small section of the season only to be knocked back down to size.
One such extreme example is the Rangers’ Taylor Teagarden.
In 2008, the catching prospect was having a middling season in the minors but received a September call-up. Prior to joining Texas, Teagarden hit .211/.319/.374 with nine home runs in 286 plate appearances split between AAA and AA. Yet when he reached the majors he had a monster of a month, hitting .341/.426/.829 with five home runs in 36 plate appearances. Following the ‘08 season, based on his late season performance, Teagarden’s name was often cited by the Boston Red Sox as one of the potential targets to eventually replace the aging incumbent Jason Varitek. Instead, the Rangers opted to hang on to Teagarden - along with backstop partner Jarrod Saltalamacchia – only to be rewarded with a .205/.268/.356 line since then (and in a freakin’ hitter’s park, no less).
Teagarden’s story is fairly consistent of what happens to a lot of hitters that have talent but do not demonstrate the ability to respond once the competition adjusts to them. In September ’08, opponents fed Teagarden a steady stream of fastballs. Over 70% of his pitches were fastballs and the right-hander hit .407 on them resulting in an incredible value of 8.1 runs above average. Not surprising, the following season Teagarden saw fewer fastballs coming his way and, when he did get one, he was not able to do much with it. It got to the point where he was sent back to AA to figure it out.
Now, this is not to say that Teagarden’s misfortunes will end with the same results for Parmelee, but it is a cautionary tale of how, when given time to study, scouts can adapt quickly. As the Strib’s Joe Christensen pointed out, teams will eventually find his soft spot:
“[T]here are holes in his swing that big league scouts are sure to exploit by the time he starts facing teams a second time”
As it stands right now, Parmelee’s holes are so obvious it can be seen from space.
Parmelee’s biggest strengths are inside and down in the zone. In fact, lower in the hitting zone the better: According to Inside Edge, he has a .203 well-hit average on all his swing down in the zone (.087 MLB average). On the other hand, he clearly has a fairly significant hole in his swing when it comes to pitches up and over the plate:
His ability to keep his hands in also hinders his ability to reach the outer-half of the plate. In the most basic terms, step one of the opposition’s game plan would be to implement cutbacks on the amount of pitches thrown down in the zone and step two would be to feed him more fastballs up and out over the plate.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Parmelee will experience a collapse like Teagarden did – it simply means that he is less likely of getting “his pitch” (down in the zone) and more likely to get more of those up and out over the plate. As you can see in the chart below, teams already started to focus on that area of the zone. To his credit, Parmelee displayed an adept amount of patience on the majority of those pitches – recognizing it is better to not swing at the ones he knows he can’t handle:
Overall, Parmelee’s offensive attributes are impressive. He has shown veteran-like comprehension of the strike zone, a keen ability to adjust to the breaking and off-speed stuff, a tight swing that gives him power on the inner-half and has demonstrated that he is capable of making changes. With Justin Morneau a huge question mark for next season, while he may never reach the power levels of Morneau, there is some comfort in knowing that Parmelee, who appears very close to a finished product, is readily available.
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