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Chris Parmelee, Oakland A’s corner depth

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout every winter, baseball teams stock up on some veteran minor league free agents to fill out Triple-A rosters and provide depth in key areas. Most of these names never amount to anything, and many of them bounce around from system to system as the years go on. But occasionally they break through, and they’ll be playing in spring training anyway, so it’s worth a quick peek to see who they are.

We’ve looked at several of these free agents already this winter, including a mix players of players who have already logged some MLB time and others who are yet to make it at all:

Next on the docket is 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, who tends toward the former description as someone whose been in the Show. The lefty has racked up over 1,000 MLB plate appearances and even has a respectable wRC+ of 98, but that’s not enough for a player who lives on the corners defensively (primarily 1B and RF). Here’s a closer look!

Chris Parmelee, 1B/OF

First, his name. The A’s have picked up some awesome monikers this winter, including Jaff Decker, Chris Parmelee, and Ryan Lavarnway. (I also personally like that we have an Alejandro now.) Let’s break it down:

Par + Melee

Par: average, as a golf hole taking you exactly as many strokes as it is supposed to require

Melee: a confused struggle, especially a hand-to-hand fight among several people

OK, I was kidding, but actually there’s kind of something there. He’s been about par with the bat for his career, and he’s currently involved in a (figurative) melee with about eleventy other fringe corner guys for 1B/OF/DH at-bats in either Oakland or Triple-A Nashville. And he’s got some power, if you want to take the fighting analogy a bit further.

Background

Parmelee was a 1st-round pick by the Twins in 2006, No. 20 overall out of Chino Hills High School in Southern California — you might recognize that as the school at which basketball phenom LaMelo Ball just scored 92 points in a game. As he moved toward the upper minors, his profile included excellent plate discipline and midlevel power.

He went ham in a September call-up in 2011 at age 23, with a line eerily similar to Daric Barton’s tantalizing debut for Oakland in Sept. ‘07. However, Parmelee wasn’t able to regain any part of that magic in parts of three more seasons with Minnesota, despite generally continuing to crush Triple-A.

The Twins eventually moved on, and in 2015 a 27-year-old Parm signed with the Orioles and put up another Quad-A season — awesome in the minors, meh in the bigs. Last year the Yankees gave him eight plate appearances in June and he homered in two of them, but he strained his hamstring, missed two months, and never made it back up.

Overall, Parmelee has put up 0.5 WAR in his career, on both scales. That’s mostly thanks to his huge debut in 2011, which was worth more than 1.0 WAR on its own and has made up for some negative-value seasons since then. In six seasons, both WAR scales agree that he’s been negative thrice and neutral-or-better thrice. He will turn 29 years old in a couple weeks.

Offense

Parmelee’s game revolves around his left-handed bat, because he doesn’t provide much in the way of defensive value. His career numbers:

Parm, AAA (1,183 PAs): .286/.378/.483, 143 wRC+, 45 HR, 12.9% BB, 18.2% Ks
Parm, MLB (1,011 PAs): .248/.313/.405, 98 wRC+, 30 HR, 7.8% BB, 23.6% Ks

Looking at those lines, I can absolutely see why the A’s would take a flyer on Parmelee. He’s at least decent in every part of his profile, from taking a walk to making contact to adding in some power, and his MLB time hasn’t been a complete disaster. He’s not yet 30 and he’s at a point where perhaps just that one small adjustment could unlock his remaining potential and turn him into a productive big leaguer.

Don’t get me wrong, though, there are countless players who crush the upper minors and still never fully make the jump. To make matters worse, that 98 wRC+ in MLB goes down to just 86 if you remove the two (probably flukey) tiny-sample stints that bookend his career (the brief 2011 debut, and the Yankee homers). He’s a long shot, but it’s not hard to get what the A’s see in him. File him in the “Is he the next Brandon Moss?” category.

Defense

Parmelee has split his big league time evenly between 1B and RF, which only furthers the Moss analogy.

In 1,000 innings at 1B, he has put up roughly neutral metrics, slightly on the positive side. He appears able to make the routine plays and avoid mistakes.

In 1,100 innings in the OF, mostly RF, he’s not so good. His marks are comfortably negative, with a good arm helping to account for some of his poor range. So, sort of a reverse Moss, who is bad at 1B but decent in RF.

Verdict

I’m not actually saying Parmelee is the next Brandon Moss, and I don’t mean to abuse what is quickly becoming a cliche comparison. Rather, I’m saying that Parmelee is here for the same reasons Moss was, and with a similar skill set and path to the bigs.

Granted, Moss was more of an all-or-nothing power hitter, but note that Parmelee has put up an isolated slugging mark of .200 or better in most of his Triple-A seasons; perhaps selling out some contact for more dingers could be the adjustment he needs, much as it earned Adam Rosales another MLB contract this winter?

Otherwise, Moss and Parm are quite similar: A couple bat-first lefty hitters, without much speed but with passable 1B/RF defense, who were briefly notable prospects but struggled for years as Quad-A guys. It’s unlikely that Parm will break out like Moss did, but at least you can visualize what it would look like because we’ve seen it before.

The current MLB/AAA depth at 1B/COF/DH includes: Khris, Joyce, Healy, Plouffe, Alonso, Smolinski, Olson, Nunez, Chapman, Canha, Parmelee, Lambo, Muncy, and Ravelo.* That’s 14 players for eight total spots, or maybe up to 12 spots if you factor in platoon partners sharing a position (like Joyce/Smolinski, etc.). If I had to cut two names off that list, Parmelee wouldn’t be one of them, so I suppose that means there’s space for him and he was a worthwhile addition.

The smart money is that he’ll spend the year in Triple-A and never do much (if anything) in an Oakland uniform, but he’s a perfectly decent lotto ticket and you never know when one of those will hit big.

* I’ve left out a few guys who I think will play more CF, like De Aza, Decker, and Brugman, plus of course the DH spots can go to someone not on this list on any given day.

Bonus: Jermaine Curtis, 3B

As long as we’re talking corner guys, Curtis plays on a different corner: the hot one. Unfortunately, he’s not quite as interesting of a flyer as Parmelee. He was decent through Double-A but took a couple years to figure out Triple-A; his breakout didn’t come until last year, at age 28, in his fourth full season at the level.

At his best, he makes contact and draws walks, with a .400/.400 OBP/SLG sort of profile. In five MLB plate appearances with the Cardinals in 2013, he drew a walk and a HBP (career .400 OBP!).

Curtis, AAA (1,845 PAs): .278/.386/.358, 114 wRC+, 17 HR, 11.9% BB, 11.1% Ks, 32-of-38 SB

Defensively, he has some utility. He has played a bit of 2B and LF in the minors and winter leagues, with about 72% of his total professional innings coming at 3B. He’ll be at spring training, but it’s tough to see how he’ll fit into anything more than a bench role even at the Triple-A level.

The right-handed hitter will turn 30 in July. Like Parmelee, he’s a SoCal native — he went to A.B Miller High School in Fontana, and the only other MLB player ever to come out of that school is Jesse Chavez. Curtis went to college at UCLA.