Kyle Parker’s time with the Rockies in 2015 went terribly. That’s not really in dispute. In 112 plate appearances over 46 games, Parker hit an anemically anemic .179/.223/.311. The Rockies had four players with at least as many plate appearances as Parker with slugging percentages higher than Parker’s OPS. He ended the season with a wRC+ of 26, which was better than only Pete Kozma among players with at least 110 plate appearances in the National League. It was not just a bad season relative to other Rockies players; Parker would also be near the bottom of a Ranking Players Who Got Reasonable Playing Time list. No—Parker’s 2015 was not good, and that is not in dispute.
Debatable, however, is whether or not Parker’s 2015 should be surprising, and the answer to that might provide some hints about what to expect, if anything, from Parker in the future.
The Rockies drafted Parker 26th overall out of Clemson in the 2010 amateur draft. He began his professional career in at age 21 in 2011, playing for the Asheville Tourists. It was a promising start. He hit .285/.367/.483 in his first full season. He progressed to High-A Modesto in 2012 and did even better. Parker’s .308/.415/.562 line was good for a 152 wRC+ in the California League. It wasn’t enough to crack any top 100 prospect list, although Baseball America ranked him the Rockies fourth best prospect after 2012. Parker’s 2013 was a bit down from 2012, but it was similar: he progressed to Double-A and hit .288/.345/.492.
Parker’s 2014 playing for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox suggests more of the same: .289/.336/.450. However, the those figures were boosted by the friendly hitting environments of Colorado Springs and the rest of the Pacific Coast League. Parker’s adjusted wRC+ was only 102. Parker’s triple slash resembled what had come before, but it was not more of the same. Indeed, Parker’s 2015 playing for Triple-A Albuquerque suggests that he has found a new normal: .280/.326/.431 and a firmly average 100 wRC+. Part of that was due to a rough April.
"I started the season slow but I knew that I was capable of better," Parker told Purple Row before a game in late September. He was right; after posting an April batting line that resembled his eventual major league production, Parker hit .311 with an on-base percentage near .350 and slugged almost .500.
"Being aggressive at the plate helped me dig out of the hole," Parker said. But might he have been a bit too aggressive?
Parker’s strike out rate went up this season, lending some credence to that question. Over his first four seasons in four levels, his strikeout rate hovered around 20 percent. In 2015, it was 26.3 percent in Triple-A this year and 33 percent in the big leagues. It appears that Parker has a baseball-sized hole in his swing -- a swing he is constantly working to make better.
"I know I can contribute at this level," Parker said . "For me, it's about continuing to make adjustments to my approach and maintaining confidence."
"It's a tough game."
I’m hesitant to call Parker a "bust." While Parker was a first round draft pick, he was picked 26th. That spot in the draft hasn't exactly yielded great ballplayers. From 1995 to 2010, when Parker was drafted, there have been four other college position players drafted 26th in the amateur draft: John McCurdy, Brian Snyder, and Richie Robnett. If Parker never plays another game in the major leagues, he’ll be the most successful of the bunch. That’s because neither McCurdy nor Snyder nor Robnett ever made it to the major leagues.
Parker has accomplished a great deal by making it to the majors—he was the 18,262nd person to do so over the past 120 plus years. But it looks like his role on future Rockies teams will be limited to fifth outfielder and sometimes first baseman. Parker will probably get a fair share of playing time for the Rockies in 2016, but that's only because it's going to be a non-contention year. Otherwise, Parker probably be an emergency-emergency outfielder logging most of his plate appearances in Triple-A.