Being on the roster of a minor league baseball team allows ball players to grow and polish their game in the hopes that they’ll make it to a major league field.
Growing is something that left handed pitcher Mitchell Parker – the Washington Nationals’ No. 15 overall prospect – has been trying to do his whole career.
The New Mexico native was drafted by the Nationals in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft out of San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas. Parker had also been drafted in the two drafts prior, however, those just weren’t the right time for him to make that jump.
“Out of high school, I definitely wasn’t ready to do the whole pro ball thing. I needed a little bit of time to grow up in college. And then again, second year of college, just trying to figure out a lot about myself as a pitcher, to get better in the strike zone, be more consistent with everything,” Parker said. “2020 came around and we were kind of comfortable where we were at for that, so we decided that we were going to become a National.”
Parker was drafted during an unprecedented year, as players drafted in 2020 would not get to play minor league baseball since the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a weird year for me,” Parker said. “No baseball going on that year, but the Nats were definitely really helpful with making sure we were all keeping touch and everything, making sure the workouts were ready. So when I finally showed up to the start of Spring Training, we were all prepared.”
When Parker was finally able to start playing for the Nationals organization in 2021, he started with their Single-A team, the Fredericksburg Nationals. During his time there, the lefty had ten starts and appeared in 12 games where he recorded 85 strikeouts, 21 walks, and had an ERA of 4.08.
These performances were enough to move him up to the Nationals High-A affiliate, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, by July of 2021. The Blue Rocks was where Parker remained for the rest of the season and returned to in 2022.
“Coming from Fredericksburg to Wilmington last year, I definitely had to grow up a lot,” Parker said. “The hitters are more aggressive as you move up, you’re not going to get away with as many mistakes, so we’ve just been working on limiting the mistakes.”
Parker’s mistakes this season have been in the form of walks. A little more than halfway through, he is tied for first in the South Atlantic League for walks with 46.
“Right now the biggest issue is keeping the ball in the strike zone,” Parker said. “I mean, I’m giving up a lot of free bags right now, so once I figure that out, everything should be a lot better.”
While giving up free bases is the part of Parker’s game that he’s trying to polish up, the starter is seeing success in terms of strikeouts. Parker currently leads the Blue Rocks in Ks with 81, 23 more than any other pitcher on the team.
Parker credits the Wilmington and Washington pitching staffs with helping him improve during his time in the Nationals’ system so far.
“Our pitching coach, Mark DiFelice, he’s been working with me a lot to help figure out a lot of things with the body, just everything on the mound,” Parker said. “Sammy Narron, our pitching coordinator, he’s been helping a lot to figure stuff out. It’s been a big team effort.”
Parker likely has a few more years in the minor leagues before he puts on a major league team’s jersey. Until then, he’s trying to enjoy the ride of growing as a baseball player alongside his Blue Rocks teammates.
“I’m just trying to play a game every day, just trying to go out there and have fun with it,” Parker said. “Just trying to compete and be the best the guys can. I mean, we’re all a big family here, so we’re all looking out for each other and just trying to go out there and play a kid’s game.”
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