Parra gaining swagger, going places
Outfield prospect on Venezuela's provisional Classic roster
The Arizona Diamondbacks look at outfield prospect Gerardo Parra's spot on the provisional roster for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic as a definite "win-win" situation.
Sure, the odds of the 21-year-old making the cut from the initial list of 45 players to the eventual 28-man roster may seem slim. After all, the other outfielders on the provisional list include Bobby Abreu, Magglio Ordonez and Juan Rivera.
But no matter what the eventual outcome is, the Diamondbacks are proud of their top prospect for receiving this honor.
"It's a source of pride, a source of enjoyment and a part of his development if he can be on the same field as a Bobby Abreu," said A.J. Hinch, Arizona's director of player development. "We hope he's there sometime soon as a Major League player, and what better way to kick it off than by representing his country."
The left-handed hitter has certainly shown why he's on that fast track to the big leagues in four seasons since hitting .384 in his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2005. Over that time, he's posted a .319 average while stealing at least 20 bases each of his four campaigns.
And while Parra's been in the spotlight before, most notably as a member of the World Team at last summer's All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, playing in the World Baseball Classic would take that experience to a whole new level.
Even though it would mean missing a few weeks of Spring Training, the Diamondbacks see nothing but positives in the situation.
"I think it's a great experience for those guys who get to do it at a young age, on a grander scale than what they've experienced so far such as All-Star games and even the Futures Game," said Hinch, whose club also has a pair of prospects on the Australian provisional roster in outfielder Trent Oeltjen and southpaw Travis Blackley.
"This is a unique situation that we support and are grateful for their consideration. For any of these kids to be considered at this point is a tribute, and we're excited for them."
Regardless of where he spends the month of March, Parra is definitely going places in the Arizona system.
After hitting .328 at short-season Missoula in his stateside debut in 2005, he moved up to Class A South Bend and won the Midwest League batting crown in his first full campaign, hitting .320 in 2007 before a late promotion to Advanced Class A Visalia.
Last summer, he spent the first 50 games back at Visalia, hitting .301, before moving up to Double-A Mobile, where -- as the club's youngest player by a wide margin -- he hit .275 in 73 games, combining for 28 steals between the two stops.
"He's a pretty polished player and can manage the bat very well, play all three outfield positions and controls the strike zone," said Hinch. "Over the course of the last two winters, he's also had strong performances against older competition and has gotten a little more confidence, a little more swagger and his at-bats have gotten better against left-handed pitching."
OF Trent Oeltjen also is on the Australian provisional roster. He played for the squad in 2006, going hitless in six at-bats. The 25-year-old left-handed hitter came up through the Twins system before joining the Diamondbacks as a six-year free agent prior to 2008. Still looking for his first big league callup, he enjoyed the best year of his career in 2008 at Triple-A Tucson, hitting .317 with six homers and 60 RBIs.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.