Continuing on with our prospect conversations, we were lucky enough to talk with the one of the top pitching prospects in the system in Wes Parsons. Parsons threw the entire 2014 season with Lynchburg at high-A, where he posted a 5.00 ERA/4.19 FIP in 113.1 innings. He was able to take time between hunting and golfing to answer some questions for us, giving great insight to his takeaway's from the season and what is in store for the future.
Talking Chop: What would you say your biggest takeaway was from the 2014 season?
Wes Parsons: My biggest takeaway was probably the experience - just learning the game and learning how to attack hitters. The running game was really important in high-A, there was a big difference between low-A and high-A. The hitters are definitely a lot better and they hit more mistakes, so I definitely learned from that in the second half. But the running game is just a lot better, you have to have the right mentality to hold runners.
TC: Was there a difference in the way you attacked hitters? You've always had a relatively low walk totals - was your focus on still pounding the zone?
WP: Yeah, I feel I'm mostly a contact pitcher. If I need a desperate out or a quick out I'll throw the sinker because that's pretty much my power pitch. But it was kind of hard getting hurt in the second half and then trying to find it again.
TC: When you went on the DL with shoulder discomfort, was that something that popped up and went away or did that linger for awhile?
WP: I was actually pitching during the game against the Carolina Mudcats and I threw a 0-0 slider for a strike and I said ‘Oh man' after the pitch - it wound up being a pinched nerve. I was hard to find it coming back until that last game and I just found it and got my stuff back.
TC: You mentioned your sinker, could you talk a little bit about your slider and changeup?
WP: Yeah, the slider is pretty much the go-to - I'll throw it on 0-2 or 1-2. But the changeup, it really developed towards the end of the year and at instructs, it was money. The whole thing last year when I was in Rome is that I was sinker/slider and I was striking out everyone with the slider. They told me they wanted me to work on a changeup, so I did and started throwing it a lot more. It didn't go so well the first couple of times throwing it, but since then it's gotten really good.
TC: Was there anything else the coaches and instructors work with you on during the year or just the changeup?
WP: It was mostly just the changeup and working more top to bottom instead of side-to-side and getting more of a downhill angle and actually using my 6'4 1/2" frame. What happened was is I was 3/4 last year, and then for some reason I came back low 3/4 this year and I was just getting side-to-side and I wasn't getting any sink to it. So the instructors worked on that with me. It was crazy, I got all my command back. I feel that's my biggest strength is my command.
TC: Talk about going undrafted, do you think that was a product of you going to a small community college, was there a feeling you might have been taken?
WP: I mean the hardest I hit in my senior year of high school was 91. So I went to small junior college and I was nothing more than 85-86 in junior college my freshman year and there wasn't much interest. It's funny, my scout now actually scouted me my freshman year and said he would come back in a couple of year to see if I had progressed. I progressed that year in summer ball actually - I jumped from like 85-86 to 92-93 while I was playing in the Northwoods League. I was nominated to the All-Star game in the Northwoods and with all the adrenaline out there I was 93-95. That was pretty much it, I got a call from a scout that night after I got done. It was the Braves, and I can't turn the Braves down - growing up in Tennessee it's all Braves.
TC: What are you looking forward to most this upcoming season? If there anything you're looking to achieve or anywhere you're looking to achieve?
WP: I'm just trying to have a dominant year like I did in my first full season. After instructs, it got me pretty pumped up and I got my confidence back, and like I told you, I'd rather be playing baseball then sitting on my butt. I've been working out the past month since I've been home, but I'll probably start throwing January 1st or 2nd. I'm just trying to keep what I had in instructs and take it into next year and hopefully great things happen from there.
While the numbers might not jump off the page in 2014, it looks as if it will only be a bump in the road for the 22-year-old righty. One of the biggest takeaway's from talking to him is the development of changeup, something you could tell he himself is very excited about. Adding a third pitch to the arsenal, one that can be effective against left-handed batters, is a big step in the chain of development. Many times this is one of the most common theme's and questions you'll find in reports on young pitchers; "Will he be able to successfully develop a third pitch?"
The discussion of him working on getting more downhill and using his tall frame to his advantage also jumped out. This adjustment, while subtle, can completely change the direction and movement of all three pitches. You can quickly see how it is a constant process to not only improve on mechanics and delivery, but being able to consistently repeat them, usually something that is harder for longer limbed pitchers. If Parson's can remain healthy and effective work in the changeup, big things could be in store from the 2015 season. While it is unclear where he will begin the season, I would expect him to compete at the double-A level for most of the season, if not right out of the gate.
We would like to thank again thank Wes for taking the time. You can follow him here on Twitter.