Amongst the talk of the top collegiate outfielders in this year’s draft, little has been mentioned of Clemson’s two-sport star Kyle Parker. Parker is projected to return as Clemson’s starting quarterback next season, but if drafted highly enough, Parker has shown a great deal of interest in playing baseball.
While Clemson football reports indicate Parker will turn pro, most mock drafts make little mention of Parker. Baseball America lists him as the fifth best collegiate outfielder available in this draft, projecting him as a possible pick in the supplemental round. Keith Law is not a Parker fan, ranking him somewhere outside the top 100.
Parker is an outfielder whose strength is at the plate. He has shown consistent power against top competition throughout his college career, but after hitting .255 in 2009, Parker did not seem like a legitimate candidate to justify a first round selection. Nevertheless, Parker raised his average this season to .373 and hit 18 home runs.
Ironically, the two concerns scouts have about Parker are: (1) athleticism and (2) arm strength. Both weaknesses seem difficult to believe. In terms of athleticism, Parker is the only college athlete to ever hit 15 home runs and throw 20 touchdowns in the same season. It’s also surprising scouts would be concerned a D1 quarterback lacks the arm strength to play professional baseball.
In his Keith Law’s ESPN chat (which is entertaining), he says “I don’t see Kyle Parker as an impact guy in pro ball – he can’t run, has a below-average arm, and while he has raw power he’s a mistake hitter.” A person then responds, “Kyle Parker- Below Average Arm? What?! Have you seen him play football? Kid has a ROCKET for an arm. Clemson coaches say it’s probably the strongest arm of any QB Clemson’s ever had.” (I had the same reaction). To which Keith Law replies “If baseball was played with a football, that would be relevant, but he has a below-average arm when throwing a baseball.”
Law makes a good point. People have often made mistakes rating prospects based upon their football abilities (Drew Henson, Josh Fields, Joe Borchard, etc). But if the concern is arm strength, despite the differences in throwing baseballs/footballs, I believe Parker will have no trouble showing solid arm strength.
Parker is an intriguing prospect for a team willing to take a risk. Of course, Parker has a great deal of leverage considering we must be reluctant to pass on being Clemson’s starting quarterback. I project he will be selected in the third or fourth round by a team willing to spend heavily in this year’s draft or possibly Detroit…who doesn’t have an early pick. But the bonus offered will be comparable to a late first rounder. Then, Parker will have a big decision regarding whether he wants to return to Clemson or turn pro.