The success rate for Tommy John surgery patients has been exceptional, but D-backs top prospect Jarrod Parker looks like he's going to set the bar even higher.
The 22-year-old right-hander missed all of the 2010 season following his elbow procedure. Typically, that would mean the 2011 season would be about regaining his feel for pitching and getting his mound legs back. Parker has pushed up the timetable, working diligently during rehab and throwing extremelly well in instructional league play this past fall. Now, somewhat surprisingly, Parker's name is being mentioned as one that might find its way onto the 25-man roster when Arizona breaks camp.
"I want to get in there and get some work in, prepare myself for wherever they send me," said Parker, who reported to camp at the end of January and raved about the new Spring Training facilities. "It's a positive for me. There's going to be a lot of competition this spring, which we all like, and it's something I'm looking forward to."
It remains to be seen if Parker will actually win a rotation spot right out of the gate, but he will get a very long look in big league camp. The D-backs will have to weigh several things, from keeping their top homegrown arm around to monitoring his workload after not having pitched in over a year. The fact the 2007 first-round pick is even in this situation is certainly ahead of schedule. Even Parker, though confident in his own abilities, has to admit this.
"Yes and no," Parker said about being surprised at his progress. "No, because I put so much work into it, but yes, because I feel so good and nothing has gone wrong. I will try to make sure I have the same attitude this season that I had going into rehab so I can maintain that health."
That's all that truly matters for right Parker and the D-backs right now. At some point, he will join the rotation in Arizona, whether it's in April or later on. Parker manages to keep an even keel about it and knows all he can do is go out and pitch and make the decision a hard one for the powers that be.
"That's all I can do, take care of my stuff on the field, have success and put the pressure on them to make the moves," Parker said. "I go out and pitch; they tell me where to go. I'm just looking forward to being out on the mound and competing again."
And he takes comfort in not being alone. There are a number of pitching prospects in and around Parker, at various stages of development, some of whom came courtesy of last summer's Dan Haren deal.
"We've added some good depth to our system lately, with some trades, picking up some good lefties," Parker said. "You can never have enough."
D-backs' Top 10 Prospects
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP: He's yet to throw a competitive pitch, post-surgery, but most feel he'll be in Arizona at some point in 2011, though the D-backs will be very cognizant of his workload. He's got top-of-the-rotation potential.
2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP: The D-backs got him in the Dan Haren deal in July and he finished off by making four starts, allowing just three runs and striking out 20 in 16 innings. Projectable lefties are a hot commodity and Skaggs fits that description perfectly. He'll likely start the year with Class A Advanced Visalia.
3. Bobby Borchering, 3B: After finishing well in his first full season, it will be interesting to see what this switch-hitter will do for an encore. He should hit for power and while he strikes out a bunch, he might hit for some average. A position change might be in his future, but he'll play third in Visalia for now.
4. Chris Owings, SS: A Midwest League All-Star in 2010, Owings got shut down with a foot injury. He'll be ready to go in 2011, moving up a level and using his good bat speed to continue to hit for average. He's got the range, hands and arm to stay at shortstop and has outstanding work ethic. He'll play alongside Borchering in Visalia.
5. Wade Miley, LHP: If you're looking for a pitching prospect after Parker to help out in Arizona, this might be the guy. The lefty pitched, and pitched very well, at two levels last year and has a four-pitch mix. If he continues to progress, he could be get a phone call from the D-Backs in a hurry.
6. Patrick Corbin, LHP: The D-backs got not one, but two lefties from the Angels in the Haren deal. Like Skaggs, Corbin has some projectability as well, though his stuff isn't as exciting as his fellow former Angel. He does, however, have very good command and could develop into a dependable middle- to back-of-the-rotation type. He should move up to Double-A to begin the season, or perhaps start in Visalia.
7. Marc Krauss, OF: Krauss finished fifth in average, tied for second in homers and third in RBIs in the organization in 2010, and Arizona hopes to get more of the same from this 2009 second-rounder. His bat should carry him to the big leagues, where the D-Backs hope he'll be a solid run producer in the next year or so. The next step for him is Double-A Mobile.
8. Matt Davidson, 3B: Another 2009 draftee, Davidson shared time at third with Borchering in the Midwest League last season and it was he, not Borchering, who was an All-Star. Some aren't sold on his defense, but he's got a great arm and most think he'll hit for average and power as he moves up to share the hot corner with Borchering in Visalia.
9. Charles Brewer, RHP: The D-backs' 2009 12th-round pick put himself on the map by playing at two levels in 2010, finishing first in the organization in ERA and strikeouts. The move to Double-A Mobile this year should be a good test for the UCLA product, who could be a good back-of-the-rotation type in the future.
10. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B: One more from the '09 Draft class who's been impressive, at least in the early stages of his career. The big first baseman enjoyed the California League in 2010, earning MVP honors and being chosen as MLB.com's D-backs Hitter of the Year. He's got tremendous power, and watching him deal with the jump to Double-A should be interesting in 2011.
Under the Radar
Chase Anderson, RHP: The University of Oklahoma product taken in the ninth round of the 2009 Draft had a very solid first full season, pitching at two levels and finishing with a 3.32 ERA. He also struck out 9.5 per nine innings while walking just 2.1. The 23-year-old uses an outstanding changeup and could continue to move quickly in 2011.
Eric Smith, RHP: Smith, taken in the second round of the 2009 Draft out of the University of Rhode Island, also pitched at two levels in 2010, along with Anderson. His numbers in the California League weren't as strong, though he did finish with a 1.64 ERA over his final six starts. He's got a very good sinker that enabled him to have a 2.07 groundout-to-airout ratio in 2010.
Hitter of the Year -- Marc Krauss
Both Krass and Goldshmidt will be out to prove that their 2010 success wasn't because of the hitting-friendly California League. Both should have good seasons, but it will be Krauss who takes the biggers step forward, gets to Triple-A and competes for the organization's triple crown.
Pitcher of the Year -- Patrick Corbin
It's going to be one of the two southpaws from the Haren deal, and while Skaggs has the higher upside, Corbin is a little more polished now. With Skaggs dealing with the California League, look for Corbin to shine in the Double-A Southern League.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.