Is it too early to have high hopes for a guy not even a year removed from his high school graduation?
Last spring's draft was, by many accounts, pitcher-heavy. Sitting in the first tier of eligible position players was 18-year old Chris Parmelee, who hit .407 with 11 jacks and 24 stolen bases in his senior year of high school. In addition to these raw skills, Parmelee demonstrated patience atypical of young power hitters, posting a .614 OBP. In spite of these impressive numbers, the prep star fell to the Twins with the 20th pick in the 2006 draft. At 6-1, 200 lbs, the first baseman-come-outfielder possesses a smooth swing and quick feet, even though he isn't too fast on the basepaths.
A number of places had positive things to say about Parmelee leading up to the draft. Most mock drafts had him falling between slots 10-15, some even higher. Scouting reports said he attacked pitches, spoke of his bat speed and mechanics that allow him to spray hits to all areas of the field. He was a highly-touted hitting prospect.
Before the draft, he had an opportunity to work out for the Twins, and his power impressed scouting director Mike Radcliff:
Whether Radcliff was being honest, optimistic or just putting on the Human Resources "Hi-welcome-to-the-job, we're-really-excited-to-have-you-here" smile and handshake, it doesn't matter. Parmelee was 18, was just drafted by the Twins, and was one of the best hitters available in the draft. Words do not shape entire careers...but it sounded promising.
As Parmelee went through his first summer with the Twins system, he didn't fare too badly. With the GCL Twins for 45 games, he posted a .901 OPS with 19 extra-base hits in 154 at-bats. Toward the end of the summer, he spent a little time in Beloit and struggled in limited action. Overall, however, it's easy to say his first year in the Twins system was a success, hitting .273/.369/.500 between the two clubs.
Considering his talent coming into the '06 draft, his solid summer with rookie and A-ball, and the lack of offensive prospects in the Minnesota farm system, Parmelee was immeditately considered one of the best position players in the Twins minors. Baseball America called him the Twins fourth-best prospect, and Aaron Gleeman had him listed as the second-best prospect, overall. On each list, he was the top ranked position player.
Chris Parmelee, at just 19, still hasn't convinced Baseball Prospectus that he will be an imposing offensive force over the next handful of seasons. While it's predicted that by 2010 he could hit the 20-homer benchmark (his age-22 season), it would be accompanied by hideous strikeout numbers, below-average walk totals for a power hitter and an overall offensive performance that leaves much to be desired when compared to his current promise.
Predictions, however, are just predictions; forecasts of what may be should a player of a particular makeup perform as other players of a similar makeup. It's already been mentioned: Parmelee is just 19. He has plenty of time.
In the mean time, his isolated power and his patience are terrific assets (75th and 60th percentile respectively). If he continues to maintain plate discipline, gets stronger and continues to adapt as he reaches higher levels in the system, he could very well be the middle-of-the-order hitter the Twins are looking for in 2010.
Currently though, looking at how this summer's campaign has begun, it's been a slow start:
Year G AB R H 2B HR RBI SB SO BB Avg Obp Slg
2006 56 176 31 48 8 8 34 3 56 28 .273 .369 .500
2007 6 22 5 4 1 1 2 0 11 2 .182 .250 .364
Is it too early to have high hopes for Chris Parmelee? Absolutely not. It is too early to say whether or not he'll turn out to be an offensive juggernaut, but then again, it usually is for 19-year old prospects. The reason we're all so excited about the idea of a great hitter coming through the system is because of the lack of hitting depth there currently. Compare that fact with the monster in the corner, the Twins pitching depth, and Parmelee's promise is magnified.
There's all the reason to get excited about what Parmelee could mean to the franchise in three or four years. In my mind, where it's safe and warm, I imagine him being a solid supplementary player, hitting fifth or sixth as the DH. In the mean time, in reality, let's enjoy the ride. He's just 19, and baseball is a patient game.