Though his major league career is still extremely young, it's hard not to notice why the Oakland A's were willing to part with a player like Trevor Cahill to acquire Jarrod Parker.
After a few late shaky starts during the spring, Parker was demoted to AAA Sacramento. He was able to rebound, however, going 1-0 with a 2.18 ERA, and more importantly, surrendering only six walks in 22 innings.
He was then able to continue that success once promoted to Oakland in late April. Allowing only two earned runs or less in each of his four starts, he has surpassed expectations thus far this season, but his control is still a concern. In his last two starts, he has given up a combined nine walks in only 12.2 innings pitched.
If he is to continue this level of success, then control is one aspect of his game that needs to drastically improve. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time until opposing teams take advantage of all the free passes that Parker gives up over the course of a game. Should he straighten out his control issues though and live up to his potential, then expect him to join the long line of young talented pitchers that have recently graced the mound in Oakland.
Beginning with Trevor Cahill, the young righty has been mightily inconsistent thus far in his career. Coming off a 2010 campaign in which he went 18-8 and garnered Cy Young consideration at the ripe old age of 22, Cahill followed that up with an extremely disappointing season last year. Finishing with an ERA over 4.00, Cahill was repeatedly roughed up late in the season, giving up as many as 10 earned runs in his starts. This prompted Oakland to move Cahill this past offseason, trading him to Arizona for Parker, among others.
With Cahill, the ability is clearly there. Possessing one of the game's best sinkers when it's on, he has put up top of the rotation numbers in years past. Like Parker, he just needs to remain more consistent.
He needs to focus on repeating the same arm slot with each pitch, throwing more over the top when he throws his sinker, thereby allowing him to get more on top of the ball, resulting in much more sinking movement. As of now, Cahill has a slight edge over Parker because he has shown that he does possess the stuff to be one of the game's best pitchers. Parker is still very inexperienced at this point, so his longevity over the course of a season is still unknown.
One player who like Cahill was traded far too soon this offseason was Gio Gonzalez. Traded to Washington, Gonzalez established himself as one of the game's top lefties last year, finishing with an ERA of 3.12. He has managed to top that number thus far this year, dominating with an ERA under 2.00.
Like Parker, Gonzalez had control issues early in his career. Once he was able to manage that aspect of his game, his overpowering stuff was able to shine. With these two pitchers, it's not a matter of talent, it's merely harnessing it.
Gonzalez was known to be a bit temperamental while on the mound, occasionally letting his emotions get the better of him. So far, Parker hasn't shown anything that would leave one to believe that he could lose his cool while pitching, but at this point Parker is still a liability every time he takes the mound.
Both possess tremendous breaking balls; for Gonzalez it's his curveball, for Parker it's his slider. If Parker can get an overall better feel for his pitches, then reaching Gonzalez's level is only a matter of time.
The other member of the big three that came up in Oakland a few years ago, and the only one still with the club, is Brett Anderson. Potentially the most talented of the three, and I say potentially because we've hardly seen him play, Anderson coming up had every look of an ace.
Anderson and Parker do actually share a similarity, but it's an unfortunate one because the similarity I refer to is that they have both undergone Tommy John surgery despite neither being over 24. It's a pity because in the short amount of time Anderson has pitched for Oakland, the potential for greatness is there.
Like Parker, Anderson has overpowering stuff, possessing a fastball that can reach the mid-90s consistently. What separates Anderson from Parker, though, is his feel for pitching. Anderson has much better command with all pitches, being able to throw any pitch in any count. Hopefully for Anderson, he's able to regain his form just as Parker did when he came back from the injury and be that top of the rotation starter the A's still see him as.
There is no question Parker has the ability to be a dominant pitcher. With more experience and guidance, there is no reason why Parker can't equal or even surpass the other young pitchers that have come through Oakland in recent years.