On August 30th, the Reds and Yankees completed their deal from late July that sent relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to Cincinnati in exchange for a player to be named later (PTBNL). That “later” time has now arrived, as the Yankees broke the news that they had acquired right-handed pitching prospect Jason Parker.
The Yankees didn’t exactly scout and identify Parker as a talent to fulfill an unmet need within the organization. As a so-called PTBNL, Parker serves as a fringe benefit to the trade, as the immediate purpose of sending Cessa and Wilson to the Reds was to dump salary and free up the Yankees’ payroll leading up to the 2021 trade deadline. As a prospect, there isn’t exactly a ton of hype surrounding the guy. But that doesn’t mean Parker has nothing to offer. Let’s take a closer look at Parker’s potential value to the Yankees farm system and explore how his strengths and weaknesses fit in with the organization.
The Yankees will likely use the remainder of the 2021 minor league season to gain a more complete picture of Parker and assess what his future projections as a pitcher might look like. Parker was chosen out of North Carolina State University in the 16th round of the 2019 MLB draft, but an injury kept him sidelined during the 2019 minor league season and the pandemic and subsequent cancelation of the 2020 minor league season further stalled his ability to demonstrate his tools on the mound. Considering the fact that this is Parker’s first year playing pro ball, the 23-year-old will likely spend several years progressing through the minors, during which he’ll continue to develop and hone his pitching craft.
Parker throws three pitches — a fastball, change up and slider — but the latter is his most potent weapon. He often leverages his slider as a putaway pitch, as it displays late and impressively sharp movement. Moreover, his solid strikeout numbers this season suggest he trusts his stuff and has enough command of his slider to throw it in any count. Although his fastball tops off in the low 90s, Parker’s delivery is marked by short, compact arm action, which makes it tough for batters to pick the ball up.
Parker previously spent the 2021 minor league season with Low-A Daytona, where he made 18 starts and a relief appearance for the Tortugas. Across those 19 outings, he compiled a 4.05 ERA over 80 innings pitched, striking out 27 percent of opposing batters and maintaining an average walk rate under ten percent. With Daytona, he relied heavily on his slider, often throwing it more frequently than his fastball and employing it effectively to finish off batters.
Parker’s righty-lefty splits are very skewed, and this is a dimension of Parker’s pitching that must improve. His performance in Daytona against left-handed batters was significantly worse than his results against right-handed batters. In 2021, righties hit only .184/.279/.322 against Parker. Lefty swingers were more successful, hitting .260/.369/.462 when he was on the mound.
To take his game to the next level, Parker will need to strategically work on his approach when it comes to facing lefties. He’ll benefit by learning how to leverage his breaking pitches to attack left-handed batters in a more aggressive manner.
Kyle Boddy, the pitching development specialist and founder of Driveline Baseball’s training facilities, was hired by the Reds in 2019 to serve as the organization’s pitching coordinator and director of pitching initiatives. He’s a reliable source when it comes to singing Parker’s praises, seeing as Boddy is widely regarded as a pitching training and development scientist in the baseball world. Boddy expressed in a tweet his disappointment to see Parker leave the Reds organization:
Another aspect about Parker which shouldn’t be overlooked: He has the kind of drive and determination that players need to grind it out through the minors. After dealing with an injury that ended his 2019 season before losing all of 2020, Parker’s rebound cannot be ignored.
Parker’s ascent leading up to the 2019 draft is notable, too. Initially, he had no plans to play baseball in college. Once he realized he still had the desire to compete and pitch, he attended junior college in Louisburg before transferring to NC State for his junior season. While his numbers on the season for the Wolfpack were middling, he pitched a shutout against Florida State, the No. 1 college baseball team in the country. Parker went from entertaining zero college offers in high school, to walking on his junior college baseball team, to playing for NC State and getting drafted by the Reds.
Opportunities were not handed to Parker. His initiative and drive to relentlessly pursue his dream speaks to his work ethic and determination, and he’ll need to keep that dedication alive to impress a whole new group of experts in the Yankees’ organization.