UA infielder-turned-pitcher waits for name to be called in baseball draft

2014-06-05T00:00:00Z UA infielder-turned-pitcher waits for name to be called in baseball draftBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tyler Parmenter’s plan seemed sensible and realistic.

When the Yuma Cibola High School product showed up to begin his Arizona Wildcats baseball career in the fall of 2011, he figured he’d put in his three seasons, improve each campaign, and get drafted somewhere in the top 10 rounds after his junior season.

A 15th-round selection by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2011 draft, Parmenter turned down an opportunity to play professional baseball out of high school.

Instead, he signed with Andy

Lopez as an infielder and was hopeful he’d follow in the footsteps of Jason Donald, Alex Mejia and others.

Again, sensible and realistic for a player that hit .500 in high school and was voted first-team all-state by coaches across Arizona.

So here we are with the first two rounds of the MLB draft set for tonight and the following 38 rounds set for Friday and Saturday, and things haven’t exactly gone to plan.

“Not even close,” Parmenter said.

Parmenter will surely be picked at some point in the next three days, but the top 10 rounds could be a stretch, and it definitely won’t be as an infielder.

When the 6-foot-2-inch, 197-pound Parmenter reported to Tucson as a freshman, Lopez saw a lot he liked. And although Parmenter had never pitched meaningful innings in high school, the UA coach was actually intrigued by his new prospect as a pitcher. He liked the type of body he had, how hard he threw the ball and his makeup.

But Parmenter, a shortstop in high school, was a hitter. He wasn’t interested in pitching.

So he stuck to the infield as a freshman and got five at-bats on the 2012 national championship team. Again, after the season, Lopez approached Parmenter about switching to pitcher.

Parmenter still wasn’t having it. So he hit again his sophomore season. He got a few more at-bats (27) but batted just .222 and couldn’t get consistent playing time.

Finally after that season, Parmenter was ready for a change. Struggling to crack any spot in the lineup because his bat was letting him down, the hitter was ready to pitch.

“I just looked myself in the mirror one night, and was like, ‘It’s time for a change,’ ” Parmenter said this week. “I wasn’t real fond of the pitching option because I always wanted to go out and hit. But after my sophomore year, I finally came around and went to talk to (Lopez) and said, ‘I think you’re right.’ ”

Armed with a low- to mid-

90 mph fastball and a curveball and change-up that can be tough at times, Parmenter served as one of Lopez’s primary relievers this season. The right-hander pitched 29ª innings in 27 games and had a 4.91 ERA with 24 strikeouts and touched 95 on the radar gun.

He drew decent interest from professional scouts this season because of his velocity and because he hadn’t put a lot of mileage on his right arm.

In Baseball America’s most recent list of its top 500 draft prospects, Parmenter came in at

No. 423, meaning he’ll likely

be picked Saturday — possibly Friday.

“He’s young, and he has a fresh arm,” Lopez said of Parmenter. “He’s got a good, strong arm with plus velocity. He’s a kid that can develop and pitch and can be pretty good if it works out.”

Parmenter started the year strong and was Lopez’s primary pitcher to protect leads in the eighth inning. But as Arizona trudged on in its 22-33 campaign, “the season wore on him” Lopez said, and hurt his production.

“He’s one of the good guys and I think a lot of the stuff that we had to deal with this season wore on him,” Lopez said. “I think he’ll get better and better.”

That’s the goal for Parmenter, who said he would come back for his senior season if things don’t work out with the draft.

“It’s been a crazy ride,” Parmenter said. “I don’t regret waiting to pitch, because it just wasn’t the right time. But I like where I’m at now, and I still feel like I’m developing and getting better, so it’s exciting.”

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at 573-4330 or dberk@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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