Showcase : : Story
Monday, May 14, 2018

N.M.'s Parker eyes MLB Draft

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Mitchell Parker (Perfect Game)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Not everyone would think traveling nearly 950 miles from Albuquerque, N.M., to Eastern Iowa just to throw a maximum of two innings at a Perfect Game showcase event would be worth the cost in both time and money, but Mitchell Parker isn’t like everyone else.

A 6-foot-4, 190-pound left-handed pitcher and a recent graduate of Albuquerque Manzano High School, Parker was at the Mount Mercy University athletic complex on Monday morning looking forward to performing at the PG National Pre-Draft Showcase.

It had rained very early in the morning and the sky remained overcast until the sun finally broke through early afternoon, but even by mid-morning there just didn’t seem to be anywhere else he would rather be.

“I’m really just here for the baseball,” Parker told PG from the first base dugout on one side of Mount Mercy’s all-turf field. “I wanted to come up here and play and just kind of kickoff the summer and then see how the summer goes. … I thought it was important for me to be here.”

At University of Tennessee signee, Parker arrived here as the No. 106-ranked overall prospect in the national class of 2018 and as the No. 14-ranked left-hander. PG also ranks him the No. 286 overall (college, juco, high school) prospect in the upcoming MLB June Amateur Draft.

Tom Parker, Mitchell’s dad, was here with his son Monday and agreed that they both felt the trip was one they probably needed to make.

“We thought it was important because we just don’t think coming from Albuquerque that he gets as much exposure as kids from some of the other states,” Tom said. “All we’re ever hearing about is everybody from Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Texas and California. … His adviser said it would probably be a good idea for us to be up here, so we decided to do it.”

There were, in fact, 40 players here from all over the country, including a handful from a couple of the states Tom Parker mentioned. Mitchell Parker was actually one of two prospects from New Mexico in attendance with the other being 2018 right-hander Tristin Lively out of Las Cruces.

Parker has been a regular on the PG circuit for the last two years, mostly performing at WWBA tournaments. Hemade his PG tournament debut at the 2016 17u PG WWBA National Championship in Emerson, Ga., playing with Team DeMarini Elite; he was named to the all-tournament team at the 2016 17u PG World Series in Arizona playing with Mountain West ‘17.

He again earned all-tournament recognition at the 2016 PG Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., while pitching for Next Level Baseball 2018, and added yet another all-tournament team selection to his resume at the 2017 PG West MLK Underclass Championship, playing with Sticks Baseball Academy.

The 2017 PG National Showcase in Fort Myers was next up for Parker, and he earned Top Prospect Team recognition at what was his only showcase appearance before Monday. Following the PG National, he hooked up with Jeff Petty and the nationally recognized Canes Baseball organization, with whom he garnered all-tournament honors at both the 2017 17u PG WWBA National Championship and the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.; he was all-tournament at the 2017 17u PGWS while pitching for the Dark Knights.

Parker was absolutely lights-out dominant at both the 2017 17u PG WWBA National Championship and the 2017 PG WWBA Championship. He threw eight one-hit, 13 strikeout, three walk innings in Emerson, and then, in Jupiter, he threw five two-hit innings, fanning 15 and walking two.

“Playing with the Canes was, honestly, something super crazy,” Parker said. “Nothing else really compares to it, with all the people I got to meet and all the different places we got to play and all that. … Just being able to face all the best (players) from all around, it was really special and really good.”

Tom Parker coached his son in the early years, starting with T-ball at age 4, but stepped away once Mitchell got into high school. Tom actually used to suit up and catch Mitchell before his son started throwing too hard for the old man to handle.

Parker pitched three seasons on the varsity level at Manzano HS, going 9-9 with a 1.91 ERA and 314 strikeouts in 162 1/3 inning during his career, according to statistics published on the MaxPreps website. This year’s Monarchs team finished 12-13 after a loss in the first round of the New Mexico Class 6A state tournament.

“I said it before, Mitchell is a once in a lifetime kind of athlete,” Manzano head coach Tim Campos to JP Murrieta of the New Mexico Activities Association late last month.

Throughout his career to date, Parker has felt comfortable throwing mostly a fastball and curveball but has started working on a slider here lately.

“It’s been really great to see him progress through this and see some of the attention he’s received,” Tom said. “We do try to keep it in check … but he just lets it roll off his back. He’s just like, ‘Whatever’ and we don’t want to get too hyped up about it because you don’t know what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen.”

Parker originally committed to the University of New Mexico but later changed that commitment to Tennessee. He had had conversations with the Volunteers’ head coach Tony Vitello when Vitello was coaching at Arkansas and when Vitello took the Tennessee job things sort of came full circle – Tom Parker now lives in Nashville.

Mitchell Parker said he is also looking forward to working with Vols’ pitching coach Frank Anderson for the next three or four years if June’s draft doesn’t work out.

“It’s a process, and sometimes I’d even call it an ordeal,” Tom Parker said when asked about the whole college recruitment end of things. “It could be stressful at times … so once the college recruiting thing was done, it was definitely a weight off the shoulders to get that out of the way and say, ‘Hey, we’re done with that part.’ …

“But the experience was fun, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he continued. “I’ve been lucky enough to have the experience as a dad.”

With the college recruitment process in the rearview mirror, the MLB Draft is now front and center. Scouts love Parker’s deep arm action that produces a low 90s fastball and mid-70s curveball, along with his overall athleticism that makes the total package even more appealing.

“Honestly, right now, I haven’t throught too much about it,” Parker said of the draft. “Obviously, it’s always there and we’ll just have to see how it goes. … I try not to pay too much attention (to the prospect rankings). It’s nice to be there but I don’t really pay much attention to it.”

Other people are paying attention, and Parker is certainly deserving of it. Tom Parker said he tries to convey to his son the message that now that he is a high school graduate it’s doubtful that things are going get easier moving forward. It’s going to take an enormous amount of hard work if Mitchell ever expects to realize his dream of one day pitching in the major leagues.

The MLB Draft – just like the college recruiting process – is an entity that simply has to play itself out. The family is gathering as much information as they possibly can regarding the draft, and Mitchell has an adviser that is helping them sort through the details.

“I’ve talked to him about it, and even though I’ve never been drafted, I told him that getting drafted is probably the easiest part of becoming a Major League Baseball player,” Tom said. “Once you’re in a system, getting to The Show is going to be the hard part.”

Parker was struck by a batted ball early in his Pre-Draft Showcase outing Monday, and although he wasn’t seriously injured he cut the outing short. The dozens of scouts that were in attendance didn’t get to see a very big sample size on this particular day, but they have a lot to look at on Parker’s detailed PG Player Profile page from previous tournaments and showcases.

There’s another side to these events, anyway, and Parker did get to experience that side of it to the fullest. It’s the social aspect of the showcase that is also a big draw to these fast-rising prospects.

“I know from going to the other Perfect Game events and tournaments, he makes new friends everywhere he goes, so it’s kind of cool,” Tom said. “You want to see your friends succeed, so there’s that kind of camaraderie and they all know each other. It gets them used to being in front a lot of eyes and (radar) guns and everything else, and that really doesn’t faze him anymore.”

And just as the showcase was getting underway, Parker took a look around at his brothers in arms and stated: “I just want to see where I’m at see how everything’s going right now. I’m just trying to compete with everyone else out here.”

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