Thursday, September 29, 2011

Parmelee's Powerful Debut

The Twins' 2011 season has mercifully come to a close. It's difficult to draw positives from a final month in which the club went 6-20 and averaged only 3.7 runs per game, narrowly avoiding a 100-loss campaign by defeating the Royals in last night's finale. Yet there's one player who stands out as a genuine bright spot. That would be September call-up Chris Parmelee.

In a season filled with disappointing offensive performances and underwhelming rookie debuts, Parmelee's performance down the stretch stands out distinctly. Following a rather ordinary season in Double-A, he came up to hit .355/.443/.592 in 21 games for the Twins here in September.

At 23, Parmelee was the third-youngest player to don a Twins uniform this season, with Ben Revere and Joe Benson edging him by a few months. Given the uncertainty surrounding Justin Morneau's future outlook, Parmelee could have a chance to make an impact next season, and his sterling debut only increases the odds that he'll be viewed as a viable option at first base in 2012.

Let's take a look at the three contributing factors in Parmelee's impressive September triple-slash line:

Hitting for average: Parmelee racked up 27 hits in 76 at-bats for a stellar .355 batting average. Measured against his full professional body of work, this appears to be a major fluke. He's a .266 career hitter in the minors and has never posted a .300 average at any level. With that being said, Parmelee has cut down on his strikeouts over the past couple years and that's resulted in more hits, as you can see below:

Strikeout Rate
Batting Average

Parmelee carried over his improved contact rate to the big leagues in a limited sample, striking out only 13 times in 88 plate appearances (15 percent). He won't carry a .389 BABIP in the long-term, but if he can keep the whiffs in check there's no reason to think he can't hit in the .280-.290 range, which will lead to solid production assuming he remains strong in the next two areas.

Patience: While coming up through the Twins' system, he hasn't really posted the kind of gaudy numbers that you'd hope for from a first-round first baseman, but Parmelee has generally displayed a very sound plate approach. In 2,663 plate appearances in the minors, he's drawn 315 walks -- a 12 percent clip that nearly matches Joe Mauer's career walk rate in the majors.

His ability to utilize the free pass has helped Parmelee consistently put up respectable OBP figures even when his batting average has sagged. The fact that he's already demonstrated this skill in the majors, with 12 walks for a 14-percent rate, is extremely encouraging, especially when you consider how much fellow rooks Benson and Revere have struggled to coax walks against MLB pitching.

Power: This, to me, is the big wild card with Parmelee. Nothing about his performance with the Twins has surprised me more than the pop he's shown, ripping four homers and six doubles in his 76 at-bats for a .592 slugging percentage. This is a guy who went deep only 13 times in 610 plate appearances for New Britain this year, and who's slugged .436 in his minor-league career.

As a slow-footed first baseman, Parmelee will need to develop a strong power tool in order to establish himself as an asset. The early signs are extremely promising in this regard, but I'm skeptical as to whether he can sustain it in the long-term given his track record.

That will be the question with Parmelee. Can he shake an unspectacular minor-league history and prove that this quick adaptation to the bigs is legit? I don't think the Twins can responsibly move forward with him as their sole insurance policy behind Morneau at first base, but the sweet-swinging young lefty has definitely given the club something to think about by making a tremendous first impression.


mgraves said...

If he is able to translate his (lower) minor league strikeout rates to the majors, does he project as a Mark Grace type of first-baseman? If so, could do worse.

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of why a lot of folks want to dump the Twins here in Rochester. When you team up with a team that likes to promote AA players to the majors, the AAA team misses out on that player. Nothing personal but I hope the Red Wing management dumps the Twins. There's no way Parmelee should skip AAA, he needs it, and we need him. We never saw Revere for an extended period either. Do the Twins rush their prospects to the majors to save money. Yes.

TT said...

Parmelee's improved batting average in AA from the 2009 season in A ball can be attributed almost entirely to improvement in his BABIP. He has been strking out less, but I think that is a product rather than a cause of his improved batting average.

He has always been projected to develop power and its not really unusual for that to happen around his age. He is a lot like Plouffe in that regard, talented players who needed to mature to fully show that talent.

Projecting his fall major league performance to a full season would give him Morneau numbers, hitting .350+ next year with 30+ home runs. I don't think anyone expects that.

But Parmelee is a solid hitter. He is benefiting now from the fact that major league pitchers locate around the plate. The pitchers don't know where his weaknesses are yet. The question is how he will adjust when the scouts figure that out and pitchers start to locate pitches where he can't hit them.

I don't know whether the Twins can find enough at bats for Parmelee next year. With Mauer and Morneau sharing time at first and DH, bats for another left handed first baseman may be hard to come by. His development certainly makes signing Kubel less likely.

Josh said...

It's a pretty small sample, played in meaningless games against a fair number of other teams that were also checked out for the season, and the BABIP is definitely a warning signal (Danny Valencia, anyone?). That said, Parmelee has been tearing the cover off the ball.

The power numbers are interesting. I wasn't expecting this much from Parmelee, but he has shown flashes of this in his minor league career. He pounded the ball in Rookie Ball as an 18 year old...and then fell apart adjusting to A-Ball in Beloit at age 19. He was hurt a lot in his age 20 season at Beloit, but regained his pop (.496 SLG, 14 Hrs in 289 ABs).

It looks like he started a change in approach at Ft. Myers at 21, with the BA pushing up, with the power declining a bit (but still respectable). Last year he was struggling a bit at New Britain, got his feet back under him at Ft. Myers and then got back on track.

The .436 SLG doesn't look that hot, but AA is widely seen as a pitcher's league. It's starting to look like Parmelee is showing some signs of success in moving forward with an approach at the plate that allows him to make more contact and still swing with authority. He's got the power potential to hit 20-30 HRs; the questions with him were always would he be able to sustain as decent enough BA to go with it and find a defensive position. With Morneau increasingly iffy as an option in the field, we may be looking at the next Twins 1B.

I don't expect him to hit like this next season, but a split of .270/.360/.450 is certainly very possible.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to draw conclusions with the numbers of a 3 week period. What impress me was the mature approach at the plate. Waiting for his pitch, but not always taking the first pitch for a strike. Kind of a Bobby Abreu approach (I am not saying is the new Abreu, I am just comparing the discipline at the plate)

TT said...

Just to keep the BABIP thing in perspective, Joe Mauer has a career .342 BABIP, about the same as Valencia's last year. Mauer has a career AVG of .323. While no one expects Parmelee to sustain his BABIP of .389, its not really a red flag any more than his high average is.

The red flag for Valencia was probably that .284 BABIP he had last September. The league had caught up to him

JW said...

I don't think the power spike is for real, at least not yet. His slugging% was basically the same before and after the Eastern League all-star break. Span broke out in AAA before carrying it over in the bigs, and Plouffe did the same (though the jury is still out).

Parmelee also didn't hit lefties in AA. Combined with his lack of defensive value, I'm not sure how much of an asset he will be.

Anonymous said...


I was one of optimists going into the season that really disliked your early negative dissection of the roster and there were many like me. WHERE's THE BIG I TOLD YOU SO!?!?

One reason Parmalee found more power in the bigs...wait for it...the pitchers throw harder. Unlike Mauer and just about any lefty the Twins run out to the batter's box, he can consistently turn on hard stuff middle in. Opposing pitchers come in and use the same playbook they use for Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, etc and get caught by surprise. As Valencia learned this year, when the big clubs spend the off-season watching tape they will find the hole in a swing. A good hitting coach (Joe Vavra should be doing this) will have already diagnosed Parmalee's weaknesses and figured out how to fix it.

I gotta sign crow is ready to come out of the oven.

TT said...

Parmelee more than doubled his home runs from the previous year at AA and his SLG was almost 50 points higher.

But the comparison to Plouffe and Span is apt. Parmelee he is still a couple years younger than Plouffe. You can expect to continue to see the power develop develop further.

Anonymous said...

"This is a perfect example of why a lot of folks want to dump the Twins here in Rochester. When you team up with a team that likes to promote AA players to the majors, the AAA team misses out on that player. Nothing personal but I hope the Red Wing management dumps the Twins. There's no way Parmelee should skip AAA, he needs it, and we need him. We never saw Revere for an extended period either. Do the Twins rush their prospects to the majors to save money. Yes."

This guy needs wake up an look around. Many of the gripes of players that were in the Twins system have been to the contrary. The Twins typically, under Terry Ryan, kept players in the minors until they were forced to bring the player up or a player was destroying the baseball.

Shane Wahl said...

Good comments! I like what TT has to say in general.

Keep in mind that what we have seen this year with Tosoni and even Revere IS fairly rare with the Twins. The Twins are the most conservative team in terms of moving players through the minors to the majors (maybe Gleeman had this post at the beginning of the year???). And I think that sometimes it serves as a detriment to players to slow the progress . . . Span was *not good* until moved to AAA and then jumped further with the Twins. Tolleson suffered because this slow approach. Singleton suffered. Garrett Jones, etc. etc. Valencia is already 27!

This conservative approach remained this year at the lower levels (other than for Arcia). Michael Gonzalez, Jairo Perez, Nate Roberts, and, yes, even Aaron Hicks probably should have ended up one level higher than they did.

The Twins season was odd in that Tosoni was damaged with his call-up. Dustin Martin would have made more sense since he isn't a true prospect. We have seen Tosoni wake up though, now, so April-May-June in Rochester will be stellar. Dozier, Herrmann, Parmelee, Benson, Tosoni, Solarte, Bates, Martin/Roberts, Chang is an impressive lineup.

lvl 5 Charizard said...

Boof bonser, luis rivas and danny valencia all think parmelee's numbers seem pretty legit.

I dont dislike parmelee, but hes got a long minor league track record thats entirely unspectacular, hes not going to add any value on defense, and plays a position thats loaded offensively. Unless he develops quite a bit more power or keeps that babip in the 370's (which isnt going to happen), I'd say hes a long shot a good mlb 1b.

Matt said...

I think Nick's reaching deep for positives by posting this one. So the kid had a good few weeks in the bigs, nothing to get excited about MOST of the time. But this year? Hell yeah! Parmalee to the rescue!

My dad liked Terry Tiffee mostly because of his name, but also because he hit in his first 4 or 5 MLB ABs. After that?

Jim H said...

Tom Kelly used to say that you couldn't be sure of what you had with a young prospect till he got about 1000 major league ab's. Obviously, Parmelee is a long way from that. I agree with most of the comments here. The power will likely be there as he gets older, the approach looks good, will he sustain enough average to be truly valuable?

One comment about how the Twins develop players. One of the strengths of the Twins organization is patience. It is pretty clear that guys like Span and Valencia were not ready to play in the majors till they got here. You can get away with rushing players if you are willing to take a long hit of poor performance like the Twins did in the 80's. Also the Twins are always willing to promote players who are dominating the level they are at. All you have to do is keep dominating when you move up. Both Kubel and Crain went from Hi-A to the majors in one year.(I am not sure about Crain, I think he did but it might have been a little longer.)

One further reason not to rush players to the majors anymore, is economics. If you get him there too soon and he spends years learning how to play the game at the major league level, when he finally figures it out, he is very expensive and you may not be able to afford him anymore. Some of that happened with Young.

Anonymous said...

"I agree with most of the comments here. The power will likely be there as he gets older,"

I don't get this. Hes all ready 23 for a guy drafted out of HS. He's not that young and hasnt good power anywhere.

Benson had better plate disc and significantly more power in the minors and will likely be a valuable defender wherever he plays. I know he had a bad month with the twins so its tough to write a positive blog post about a meaningless one month sample about him, but he is the better prospect.

Jim H said...

I agree that Benson is the more exciting prospect and in some ways the better prospect. Benson can be valuable in a lot of ways depending how he develops. He has also been better in the minors than Parmelee. Still 23 is young, especially for a power hitter. People, in general, not just athletes get stronger as they get older.

When Thome first came to the majors, he hit oveer 300 without a lot of home runs. Now, Parmelee is no Thome, but if he can hit for enough average to be useful, the power will likely develop and probably eventually be a very important part of his game.

I didn't know we were comparing the 2 but Benson and Parmelee are very different prospects. Benson is a 5 tool guy who will have value if he turns even 3 of those tools into skills. Parmelee needs to be able to hit for both average and power because he has no other tools.