Commentary

Parnell has value as set-up man

Updated: June 7, 2009, 4:06 PM ET
By Jason Grey | ESPN.com

It's been an interesting career progression for the Mets' Bobby Parnell. A starter his entire pro career, Parnell, two months into his first full season as a big league pitcher, finds himself as the primary set-up man to Francisco Rodriguez.

J.J. Putz is expected to be out eight to 10 weeks for surgery to repair a bone spur in his elbow, but Parnell had supplanted Putz in the eighth even before that news broke.

Parnell has fanned almost a batter per inning and not allowed a ball to leave the yard this season, though his WHIP is inflated by a high batting average on balls in play (.372).

The big question is: Can Parnell handle any save situations that may come his way? I think he can. Many scouts thought that Parnell was miscast as a starter and that in a relief role, his stuff would play up and his command troubles would be minimized. When Parnell would get in trouble in the past, it was often during the second and third times through the order. So far, the conversion is going according to the script.

The 24-year-old righty was able consistently and easily to throw 92 to 95 mph as a starter, touching 96, and can now hit the high 90s, maxing things out in one-inning stints and getting good movement down in the zone.

He also has a slider and a changeup, though he lacks feel for the change, perhaps because he switches between both four- and two-seam grips on it. His slider backs up and flattens out a bit too often, but it has a nice, tight break when he commands it.

"I'm still working on controlling my changeup and making my slider more consistent," Parnell said, "but everything is about staying ahead of hitters and getting in good counts, so as long as I do that, I think I'll be fine."

Parnell's command issues sometimes stem from problems staying back in his delivery and not allowing his arm to catch up.

"Sometimes I don't finish my leg kick, and I need to tell myself to do that so I don't overthrow," Parnell said.

The biggest thing for Parnell is that he has been almost exclusively a fastball pitcher in the big leagues this season, and he's going to have to work in his secondary pitches a bit more -- even if they're inconsistent -- at least to keep hitters guessing. Still, that prototypical late-inning stuff is there, and there's enough electricity in his fastball to get the job done, making him a solid play in NL-only formats.

Potential Pickups

It was a big week for call-ups, and we covered a lot of the major ones earlier in the week. They are linked below for easy reference. Here's a look at some of the additions to single-league player pool this week:

American League

Gordon Beckham, IF, White Sox: The spin on Beckham's value is available here.

Vin Mazzaro, SP, A's: As I write this, Mazzaro is scheduled to make his second big league start Sunday after throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings in his debut. However, he walked four and struck out just one in that debut, indicating that some good luck helped him keep a struggling White Sox offense off the board. Mazzaro is a pitcher who succeeds more by limiting good contact than by missing bats, and relies on a low-90s sinker. His changeup and slider are still works in progress, as he needs to command them better, and big league hitters may not chase the slider out of the zone as they get more familiar with him. Still, the starting pitching pool in AL-only leagues is even thinner than usual this year, which makes Mazzaro one of the better options that has come up in the past few weeks, and his home park will be a help.

Alberto Castillo, RP, Orioles: He'll be taking Jamie Walker's place as a situational lefty in the O's bullpen, and thus not have any fantasy value.

Dirk Hayhurst, RP, Blue Jays: Hayhurst is just a long-man out of the Jays' bullpen who will be asked to eat up some innings. That's never a good thing, especially in the AL East.

Doug Mathis, P, Rangers: Although Mathis was a starter at Triple-A, he will be used as a member of the Texas bullpen. He keeps the ball in the park and down in the zone, but is ultimately too hittable to project sustained success even if he were to start eventually.

National League

Our spin on the call-ups of Atlanta's Tommy Hanson and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen is available here, courtesy of Nate Ravitz. Both are must-grabs in NL-only leagues, with Hanson having the bigger upside.

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies: Get the Gonzalez spin here.

Antonio Bastardo, SP, Phillies: Bastardo was impressive in his big league debut, and he certainly has the stuff to back it up. However, while he impressed with his mid-90s velocity, he started losing it a bit as he got later into the game, and even his own manager expressed concern as to how much he was relying on his fastball. He's shown a decent changeup in the past but will need to work it into the repertoire more. In all, he's a pitcher definitely worth taking a chance on in NL-only leagues.

Blake Hawksworth, P, Cardinals: Once a well-regarded starting pitching prospect, Hawksworth hit the wall in Triple-A in 2007 and only just started having success there this year. He'll be in the bullpen for now but may get a chance to start if the Cardinals are unhappy with Brad Thompson's performance in the rotation while Kyle Lohse is on the disabled list. Still, I don't expect Hawksworth to do much with a starting role even if given the chance, so you can safely pass on him.

Matt Maloney, SP, Reds: Maloney had a good debut Saturday, allowing just two runs in six innings, and can pound the strike zone as though his life depends on it. He will be in the rotation for a little bit while Edinson Volquez is on the DL; his fly-ball tendencies, however, will be a problem in his home park, and his lack of a good fastball will make him a bit hittable. He's worthy of a short-term pickup in deep NL-only leagues, but he's flammable.

Tyler Greene, SS, Cardinals: Greene could steal some time at shortstop from Brendan Ryan and has a tiny bit of speed and doubles power, but he may have trouble making contact with regular playing time. With the middle-infield pool so scarce in NL-only play, there are plenty of worse options.

Matt Daley, RP, Rockies: Now that he has returned from the disabled list after an ankle sprain, there is talk that Daley could eventually be moved into a set-up role if he continues to pitch well. With Huston Street reportedly available in the trade market, Daley's performance is at least worth watching.

Tim Wood, RP, Marlins: He's already been sent back to Triple-A to make room for Ricky Nolasco, but he has closer-type stuff after coming back from years of injury problems, and you'll see his name on a big league roster again. He's a name NL-only players should keep in the back of their minds for when he resurfaces.

Will Venable, OF, Padres: Venable could see a good number of at-bats in the Padres outfield while Scott Hairston is on the DL. However, the 26-year-old projects as a fourth or fifth outfielder at best and has to open up his swing too much in order to hit for power, so he may have trouble making consistent contact.

Edwin Bellorin, C, Rockies: He could actually hit for a decent batting average, but he's just a temporary fill-in while Yorvit Torrealba and Chris Iannetta are out, so he won't have much value.

Mike Burns and Chris Smith, RP, Brewers: They're just journeyman relievers that are extra arms to fill out the 'pen at the moment.

Steven Jackson, RP, Pirates: A sinkerballing reliever who used to be a starter, Jackson can be a quality big league reliever but won't have much value beyond vulture wins in his current role.

Alejandro De Aza, OF, Marlins: He'll be a backup at all three outfield positions, but two years of major ankle problems have sapped the speed that once made him potentially useful in fantasy.

To see a profile of an Indians pitcher who has some value in AL-only leagues, join ESPN Insider. Insider

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