It’s amazing how things can change over the course of a season.
The first month of right-handers Tommy ParsonsThe 2022 season was probably the low point of his professional career. But as the minor league schedule nears its conclusion, the 27-year-old St. Louis Cardinals nominee has made great strides and seems closer than ever to a major league opportunity.
Parsons, who played at Adrian College Division III and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cardinals in 2018, has done extremely well in his first two pro seasons. But after missing out on a year of game action in 2020 (he spent time at the Cardinals’ alternate practice site in Springfield), he struggled mightily at Triple-A Memphis last year. Parsons had a solid 2.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but his 5.86 ERA and .292 opposing batting average over 73.2 innings were quite a concern. At the beginning of 2022, his career appeared to be at a crossroads.
Parsons started the season in Memphis, where he practiced in the bullpen and often busted in an inning or two, despite being a starter for most of his career. He didn’t do much to help his cause in April, posting an 8.18 ERA with an opponent’s .954 OPS over 11 innings of relief. Since the calendar switched to May, however, Parsons has been looking like a different pitcher.
In 113.2 innings since May 1, Parsons has held opposing hitters at a .194/.277/.396 slash line. He joined the Redbirds’ rotation in June and seemed more comfortable there. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound righty was at his best for the final month of the season, throwing for a 1.02 ERA with a .159 batting average, 18 strikeouts and five walks over 17.2 innings spread over three Starts extended in September.
While Parsons’ 4.19 ERA might not quite bear that out, he has been arguably Memphis’ most reliable pitcher this year and has strong numbers — at least in the context of being a pitch-to-contact pitcher — in most peripheral categories: one 1.15 WHIP, .200 opponent average, 100 strikeouts and 52 walks in 124.2 innings. For all it’s worth in 2022, he also ranks second in the International League with 11 wins. If he hadn’t hit 26 home runs – the second most of any pitcher in the IL – his ERA would have looked a lot better and his season would almost certainly be widely discussed as one of the best by every pitcher in the system.
As much as Parsons has already beat the odds to be where he is now, he still faces a steep climb to build a respectable major league career. It’s relatively old for a player with no big league experience, doesn’t have premium velocity, and doesn’t miss a ton of bats. However, the Cardinals have been more willing than most organizations to give pitchers with this type of profile opportunities, so Parsons seems to be in a good position.
With the clock ticking down for the 2022 season and Parsons still not on the Cardinals’ 40-man list, his chances of making his major league debut this year are slim. But he’s put himself in a good position to fight for a big league job in 2023.