Last year, Gerardo Parra led the Midwest League in batting average and
finished fifth in hits despite playing the final month of the minor league
season on the Visalia Oaks. In Visalia, he hit .284, but posted a meager
OPS of .685. Still, with the trade of Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham to the Oakland Athletics, Parra became the best overall outfield
prospect in the organization, and many fans were surprised to find him beginning
the season once again at Hi-A.
"It was just a good starting point: the way everything lined up
both for him as a player and us as an organization," Diamondbacks field
coordinator Jack Howell justified. "All you have to do is
look at our past history of last year for some guys who started at a lower
level, then wound up playing in the playoffs in the big leagues," he added,
clearly referencing Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds, who began the 2007 season at
Hi-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, respectively.
it's more of a big picture mentality. We look more for the whole, total
development for this season as well as his career."
So Parra spent the first two months of the season at Visalia once again.
He hit a clean .300, but slugged just .411 there. He had been batting .250 with
only one extra base hit and one RBI over his last 10 games. It's a
surprise that his merely solid performance in the Cal League warranted this
promotion, considering the expectations many had for him playing at a low level
that is also the best hitter's league in the minors.
On the other hand, Parra's performance in the Midwest League outdistanced
Justin Upton's by so much that it may be a better indicator of his future
performance. Many scouts contend that Upton was merely bored with the
Midwest League and did not give his best effort. Indeed, he contributed
roughly $400 to the Silver Hawks' year end party fund by not running to first
base as hard as he could. Perhaps Parra felt a similar lack of motivation
with the Oaks.
We'll find out soon enough. Parra now finds himself in a league with
much better pitchers, but also with more spacious ballparks. Since he
isn't a home run hitter, Parra may actually benefit from these larger
dimensions, as they could allow more of his line drive gappers to land on the
outfield grass. The pressure is on not only for Parra, but for the
entire organization, who decided to hold onto this talented outfielder in lieu
of some others.
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