Kyle Parker is one of the finest athletes ever drafted by the Rockies. Last year at the Clemson University, Parker became the first person to hit 20 homeruns and throw 20 touchdown passes in the same academic school year. According to his head football coach at Clemson, Parker has the ability to play both football and baseball professionally. Fortunately for the Rockies, Kyle has chosen baseball as his future.
The Rockies took a risk when they selected Parker in the first round of the 2010 Draft. Despite just finishing his junior season in baseball, Kyle had three years of football eligibility remaining and spoke openly about his desire to return to Clemson for another year. Initially, the Rox offered Parker $2.2M, but asked him to give up his football career — something Kyle wasn’t willing to do. In August, Parker and the Rockies finally came to an agreement. He signed for $1.4M with permission to return to Clemson for a final season.
2010 was a disappointing year for the Clemson football team and for Kyle. He only threw 12 touchdowns, while leading the Tigers to a sub-standard 6-7 record. His career ended when he broke a rib at the end of the first half in the Meineke Bowl. While it was a disappointing conclusion for Parker, it marked the beginning of his professional baseball career.
The Rockies are very excited about Parker’s future. Despite not having a single minor league at-bat, he is already a top five Rockies prospect. In college, even with a limited focus on baseball, he was one of the best players in the country. Now that he is solely a baseball player, he should only get better.
At the plate, Kyle possesses legitimate power to all fields. He stands tall and steady in the box and triggers his swing with a leg-kick that is reminiscent of Matt Holliday. He is tremendously strong, has quick hands, and generates a lot of bat speed. Unlike many college players, Kyle’s homeruns were not the product of an aluminum bat. He should have no problem adjusting to wood. I’m predicting that he will hit 30+ HRs next season.
Defensively, Parker projects as a corner outfielder and the Rockies would like him to play right. His solid arm and nice range would be a great fit in Coors Field’s expansive outfield. His outstanding athleticism gives him the potential to be a Gold Glove caliber defender, but, like any player, he must work hard to reach that level.
In addition to his tremendous ability, Parker brings a lot of intangibles to the table. According to his college coaches, he is very intelligent and mature. In college, he flourished despite a very burdensome schedule. He spent his springs bouncing between baseball games and football practices, often on the same day. On one notable weekend last year, he played a baseball game against Duke on Friday night, flew back to Clemson for the Spring football scrimmage the next morning, and flew back to Duke to finish up the weekend baseball series that night. His ability to handle obligations amid a hectic schedule should carry over well to the world of professional baseball.
Parker is also an intense competitor and strong leader. At times last year, he carried the Clemson baseball team on his back and his commanding presence on the football field was obvious to anyone that watched him play. He responds well to pressure and is equipped to handle any adversity he will face as a professional.
If it seems like I am a little extra excited about Parker, that’s because I am. I believe he has a higher ceiling than any other Rockies prospect and may be the steal of the 2010 MLB Draft. His accomplishments at Clemson seem far-fetched. I can’t fathom how he was able to participate in spring football practice and dominate a baseball game in the same day. To be named a Freshman All-American in one sport is quite a feat, but to be named a Freshman All-American in two sports is just ridiculous.
Ever since his college football career ended and he officially became a Rockie, the buzz over Parker has been gaining momentum. Baseball Prospectus rated him as the number five player in the Rockies’ system and Baseball America tabbed him as the team’s best power hitting prospect. According to reports, he is recovering from his rib injury and will show up to Scottsdale next month fully healed. He will start the season in Asheville, but the Rox are hoping that they can fast-track him to the Majors. Keep an eye on Parker this year. He has a chance to be scary good.