Image: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
2021 season age: 35
Contract: Minor league contract
Height: 6’3; Weight: 225
2020 stats: 16IP (14 games), 2.81 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 25 strikeouts, nine walks
2020 in review: At age 34, Parker actually had one of the best season’s of his career. Though his 1.31 WHIP is a little more than you’d really like from a reliever, he struck out batters at a 36% rate, but his walk rate of 13% was the highest of his career. He held hitters to a .200 average and he managed an 11.8% swinging strike rate, which is right in line with his career. Other than a higher walk rate, Parker really put together a good, sustainable season.
On the mound: Parker relies on three pitches. His go-to weapon is his splitter (80mph – 42.2% usage rate). He pairs it with a four-seam fastball (90.6mph – 41.3%) and will occasionally will throw a curveball (76.1mph – 16.5%). His splitter was devastating to hitters in 2020. Hitters managed just a .148 average against it and just a .259 slugging percentage. The bottom must fall out of the pitch because its spin rate it below 1000 RMP (943). Both his four-seam and curveball don’t spin well and the fastball got tattooed in 2020 (.600 SLG%), but his curveball didn’t surrender a single hit in the 52 times he threw it.
Beyond the stats: In terms of pitcher’s spin rate on certain pitches, average spin is bad. High-spin is something that is painted as good and ideal. Low spin on pitches like changeups, splitters, like Parker’s, but also other pitches can be good. It seems as though being in the middle spin wise is bad. Nothing Parker throws has high spin. All three offerings are low spin. Perhaps he has something there. Spin efficiency, and for a curveball, spin efficiency, matter as much as raw spin rate in terms of how effective a pitch can be based on spin. Parker’s splitter had a 32.9% whiff rate, and his curveball had a 46.7% whiff rate. For reference, James Karinchak’s fastball had a 39% whiff rate in 2020 and his curveball had a 56.3% whiff rate. So Parker is near good company there. Maybe he needs to increase his curveball rate and have it cut into his fastball usage. He did up his splitter usage in 2020, which may have been part of his success.
2021 role: Parker is going to have to fight for a bullpen role. He has pretty good experience as a setup man and closer with the Angels and Twins, and then with the Phillies the last two years. It’s kind of a surprise that he didn’t get a major league contract. His arsenal is different than anything Cleveland currently has in the bullpen. They don’t have anyone who throws a splitter, unless you counted Danny Salazar’s or Carlos Carrasco’s split-change. His curveball got blown up in 2019 but was better in 2020, but clearly relying on his splitter more helped his arsenal work better. Perhaps Cleveland can get him to throw even less fastballs and replace some of those fastballs with the curve. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him earn one of the last spots in the bullpen and pitch in some low leverage situations, trying to earn leverage spots again and be reliable as one of the first guys out of the pen and provide some veteran leadership.
Fantasy impact: Could be a waiver add later in the season if he makes the team and earns some chances in holds situations, if your league counts holds. But obviously not someone you’re drafting.