The good news is Manny Parra is not alone. This is only Parra's second full season in the majors. At age 26, he is just scratching the surface of his immense potential. His problems do not start with his talent; the fact is his stuff is good enough to succeed. He has three above-average pitches in his mid-90s fastball, his curveball and his splitter -- the problem is he fails to get any outs with his fastball. It's mental. He hasn't yet learned how to pitch.
Many great pitchers have struggled early in their careers to escape the world of potential. Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson and even Greg Maddux battled through their formative years. All had amazing stuff, but none were immediately dominant. They became Hall of Famers when they learned how to pitch.
Understand that I am not placing Parra into the Hall just yet. I am just trying to prove that a 94-mph fastball gets crushed in the bigs if it is not located well and set up by other pitches.
Taking all of this into account, the Brewers will not give up on a talented 26-year-old, especially a lefty. Parra can spend some time with Nashville pitching coach Chris Bosio working on his mental approach and he can do so out of the limelight of national television and a pennant race. I am betting Baltimore and Montreal wish they had more patience with Schilling and Johnson, respectively.
Discovering pitching is a very fickle business. Parra was a 26th-round draft pick in 2002, who then chose to go to junior college only to be signed by the Brewers for $1 million in the now defunct draft and follow process. That figure, as well as the $1.2 million that 2009 Brewers' first round pick Eric Arnett received, seems like chump change when compared to the $50 million dollars the No. 1 overall draftee, Stephen Strasburg, may be asking for.
I am not sure that I have seen a better pitching prospect than Strasburg. That doesn't mean he is a can't-miss. But for $50 million, he almost has to be for the Nationals to survive. The last can't-miss was Mark Prior, who missed. It just shows how unpredictable drafting pitchers can be.
This is what is so troubling about the bonuses that some players are getting. It's almost impossible to project an 18-year-old lefty who has only faced high schoolers. Just ask the Yankees about Brien Taylor or the A's about Todd Van Popple. The same goes for position players, take the Josh Hamilton story for example. If you give a 20-year-old kid $50 million, just pray that it doesn't destroy him.
Now the best players aren't picked by the worst teams. Signability is the main factor. In fact, the reason the Brewers chose Kenny Felder, Chad Green, Antone Williamson and Kyle Peterson was signability. It wasn't until the Brewers started spending money on their draft that they started to have success. But now things are spiraling out of control. Doug Melvin even stated that they spent just as much time scouting signability as they did on scouting ability.
Speaking of former No. 1 picks, the Crew has a few players making some noise that we haven't heard from in a while. 2006 first-round pick Jeremy Jeffress is making the wrong kind of noise, the sound of demotion. Jeffress was optioned to Class A Brevard County because he couldn't command his upper 90s fastball. Sound familiar? In 27 1/3 innings with AA Huntsville, Jeffress walked 33 batters (he also struck out 34). At Brevard, he has righted the ship a bit going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA (18 walks and 24 strike outs in 28 innings).
In exchange for Jeffress, another former No. 1, Mike Jones, was promoted to Huntsville. It's good news that Jones is even pitching, much less for the Brewers. Jones was Milwaukee's first-round pick all the way back in 2001 and has endured an entire career's worth of arm ailments. Not only is he pitching, but he is pitching fairly well.
He has found the road a bit tougher in Huntsville -- a place Jones has spent parts of four seasons. Still, just having Jones back on the mound is a good sign. His prospect status has long since dissipated, but stranger things have happened.
Another injury-riddled first round pick is back on the mound. 2004 selection Mark Rogers is making his comeback at Brevard County. The Brewers are being very careful with Rogers' pitch counts (18 2/3 innings in nine starts). The good news is that he has only given up two earned runs.
The crux of the matter is that it is very difficult to unearth pitching talent. It is even more difficult keeping them healthy and then make them into quality major league pitchers. Some get there quickly, some take their time and some never make a noise. It is imperative the organization has patience with all of these guys -- especially Parra.