Manny Parra’s 10-year tenure in the Brewers’ organization will come to an end when the clock hits midnight on the east coast tonight. The Brewers announced that they will not tender the left-hander a contract for the 2013 season, making him a free agent. Parra’s decade in the system was marred with injuries and inconsistency.
The Brewers drafted Parra in the 26th round of the 2001 draft as a draft-and-follow player, and by the time he signed with the organization, he was seen as one of the best JuCo pitchers in the country. He peaked on Baseball America’s list of Top Prospects at #69 in 2004, and was considered the #2 prospect in the Brewers’ system following the 2007 season (behind only Matt LaPorta and ahead of names like Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, Mat Gamel and Lorenzo Cain).
2007 was a bit of a renaissance year for Parra, following some injury-plagued seasons that put his future as a prospect in doubt. He threw a perfect game for Triple-A Nashville and made his big league debut that season, appearing in 9 games and putting up a 3.76 ERA.
He followed that with a fairly promising rookie campaign in 2008, making 29 starts in 32 appearances, putting up a 4.39 ERA (4.16 FIP) and striking out 7.97 batters per 9 innings. A lot of fans were telling themselves that if he could just cut down the walks (4.07 BB/9 that year), the Brewers would have a nasty 1-2 punch of Gallardo and Parra for years to come.
He was worth 2.3 WAR according to FanGraphs that season, even with a second-half slide that factored into a blowup between him and Prince Fielder in Cincinnati. Sadly, it was by far his most productive season as a Brewer.
Parra made 27 starts in 2009, but was one of the most disappointing players in a disappointing season. His K/9 dropped to 7.46. His BB/9 actually increased from the year before, to nearly 5. He gave up 1.22 home runs per 9, and carried a massive BABIP of .349. Over 1/3 of the balls put in play against him were fly balls, and over 12% of those flys carried over the fence. He finished the year with a 6.36 ERA (4.88 FIP), worth only 0.6 fWAR.
In 2010, the Parra-As-A-Starter Experience came to an end. In 16 starts that year, Parra carried a 6.19 ERA, and opponents were bludgeoning him with a .293/.379/.494 line. As a reliever, though, Parra seemed to find a groove — his ERA in 26 relief outings was 2.39, and he struck out 41 in 37.2 innings. Still, he barely finished the year above replacement level at 0.5 fWAR.
While the Brewers were enjoying one of the best years in franchise history in 2011, it was a lost year for Parra, who failed to pitch for the big league team as he battled elbow and back problems. He made his return in 2012 as as full-time member of the bullpen, and while he carried a healthy 9.4 K/9, what little command he had left abandoned him completely. His BB/9 was 5.4. Only 42.7% of his pitches were in the strike zone. When opponents did swing, they hit him hard — to the tune of a 24% line drive rate and a .345 BABIP. His 0.4 fWAR was the worst of his career.
Parra ends his Brewers career striking out 20.3% of the batters he faced, but also walking 11.1%. He has a career BABIP of .337 — at this point, it isn’t just bad luck on balls sneaking through. Despite good breaking stuff and a nasty split-finger fastball, his four-seamer (at a respectable 92.2 MPH) is still very straight and extremely hittable whenever he does actually find the strikezone.
By most accounts, he’s a good guy. Being in the same place for so long (and hearing the same criticisms for so long), the consensus seems to be that he’s a good bet to rebound somewhere else. Perhaps with the right pitching coach to work on mechanics and the right manager to put him in a position to succeed, he’ll find better results.
As much as the Brewers hated to let him go (the ghost of Jorge de la Rosa still haunts Doug Melvin’s dreams, I’m sure), they needed to continue tearing down a bullpen that put up historically bad numbers, and Parra needed a fresh start somewhere else. It was time for both parties to move on.