BOBBY PARNELL, RHP
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Actually, considering his new role entering spring training, the expectations of Bobby Parnell – he of the fastball of 100 mph. – were minimal. Parnell could not seize the closer, set-up and even starter roles when given the opportunity in previous seasons, so the Mets dropped him to the seventh inning in the wake of signing Jon Rauch (set-up) and Frank Francisco (closer) from Toronto in the offseason. Parnell has exceptional stuff capable of three figures on his fastball, but hasn’t consistently commanded his secondary pitches or been able to challenge hitters with his location and pitch selection. In addition, that overpowering fastball often didn’t have movement and looked like it was on a tee. Anybody’s fastball can be hit if there’s no lateral or dip movement. So, knowing his inconsistencies, despite his potential, the Mets penciled Parnell in for the seventh inning role.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Parnell struggled early as five of eight inherited runners scored against him in April. However, Parnell righted himself and only four more out of 20 scored the rest of the season. When Rauch hit the skids and Francisco was injured and erratic, Parnell inherited their roles and was exceptional. Parnell was 1-1 with two holds and three saves (no blown saves) in September, and went 2-1 with a save in August. Parnell still had his fastball, but his sinker and command was much better as the season progressed. Parnell finished at 5-4 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Parnell had streaks of wildness in the past, but last season walked only 20 in 68.2 innings pitched. He also struck out 61 and batters hit .249 off him with a .303 on-base percentage. The batting and on-base averages were career bests.
LOOKING AT 2013: Parnell made $504,000 last season, and should be offered arbitration for 2013. With Rauch not expected back and Francisco another year remaining on his contract to close, expect Parnell to be slotted into the eighth-inning set-up role, or close if Francisco isn’t physically able. The Mets have given up on Parnell as a potential starter and now figure him as their closer-of-the-future – again. It takes some pitchers longer than others to reach their potential and Parnell had been erratic since 2008 until the end of last season. The Mets’ bullpen unraveled late last year with the exception of Parnell and Manny Acosta late. I don’t know if Parnell will ever fulfill his long-range expectations, but for the first time in several years the Mets aren’t pulling their hair out over him. That has to be a plus, right?