Most little leaguers gravitate to the mound, or to shortstop, or to center field, but Kevin Parada began playing catcher at a young age, and could not have his mind changed. “My mom was like, ‘You know what, he’s probably going to block his first ball and realize he doesn’t want to be a catcher. I was the total opposite of that’ ” Parada said.
The youngster stayed at the position and eventually developed into one of the top catchers in the 2020 high school class. He lettered four years at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and hit a cumulative .380/.466/.661 with 9 home runs, 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts, and 34 walks to 51 strikeouts.
He began the year on the junior varsity team but was promoted to varsity after only a handful of games and ended up hitting .277/.304/.353 in 24 games with 1 home run, 5 stolen bases in 6 attempts, and 2 walks to 14 strikeouts. In his sophomore year, he hit .365/.448/.675 with 2 home runs, 2 stolen bases in as many attempts, and 8 walks to 22 strikeouts. In his junior year, he hit .447/.556/.828 with 4 home runs, 6 stolen bases in as many attempts, and 19 walks to 12 strikeouts. His senior year was limited to just 10 games because of COVID-19, but in those 10 games, he hit .467/.568/.866 with 2 home runs, 2 stolen bases in as many attempts, 5 walks, and 3 strikeouts.
Parada had numerous big league suitors, but he also was interested in going to college, preferably a college far from home, where he would be able to get the full collegiate experience. Mike Nickeas, then a Georgia Tech assistant coach and former Yellow Jackets catcher himself, saw Parada at a workout and recommended that head coach Danny Hall recruit him. Parada initially had no strong feelings towards Georgia Tech, but he eventually came to the conclusion that a school that produced catching luminaries such as Jason Varitek, Matt Wieters and Joey Bart, Parada knew that Georgia Tech would be able to transform him into a top draft prospect, a bona fide first rounder.
One of the best high school catchers in the 2020 MLB Draft, Parada could have very easily been drafted within the first few rounds of the draft, but his strong commitment to Georgia Tech coupled with the fact that the 2020 MLB Draft was shortened to just five rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic left Parada undrafted, one of the most, if not the most, talented eligible players to not be selected by a major league team.
Parada appeared in 52 games for the Yellow Jackets in his freshman year and hit .318/.379/.550 with 9 home runs, 1 stolen base in 2 attempts, and 17 walks to 41 strikeouts. That summer, he played for the U.S. National Collegiate Team and the Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod Baseball. Appearing in 9 games for Chatham, he hit.250/.344/.321 with 0 home runs, 1 steal in as many attempts, and 4 walks to 3 strikeouts, and was clearly worn out from the rigors of the season. He put on roughly 15 pounds when he returned to Georgia Tech for his sophomore year, but the weight gain was all muscle, which would help his durability and his power output. He appeared in 60 games in 2022 and hit .361/.453/.709 with 26 home runs- a Georgia Tech single-season record-, 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts, and 30 walks to 32 strikeouts.
At the plate, Parada has a fairly unique pre-pitch setup, wrapping his bat behind his head and angling it down behind his back and raising his lead shoulder. The unorthodox set up does not impact his ability to get himself set into a good hitting position, and Parada has a smooth, clean right-handed stroke. “I’ve had a few people talk about it and say that the stance looks unorthodox, but, clearly, it’s working, so no one’s having any reservations about that part of it,” he’s said of it. The right-hander is able to make hard contact against velocity and spin and uses the entire field. He can hit for power to all fields and did not sell out his approach for power, as his chase and strikeout rates actually fell between his freshman and sophomore years.
Evaluating catcher defense is difficult, but most scouts believe that Parada is a fringy backstop currently with room to improve. His biggest deficiency behind the plate is his arm strength and accuracy. In his two years at Georgia Tech, he only threw out 19 of the 93 runners who attempted to steal on him. He also needs more experience with his game calling and pitcher management, but that is a criticism that can be applied to virtually every collegiate catcher, especially those who came of age in the era of COVID. He moves well behind the plate and is a good receiver.
Parada also receives high grades in terms of emotional intelligence, baseball IQ, and his intangibles. Realizing he needed to add strength to his frame to improve his durability and power, he put in the work and the results spoke for themselves. Realizing that he needs to improve his defense behind the dish, he spent a lot of time while playing with the USA National Collegiate Team working with Jerry Weinstein, a respected catching coach. Parada is not one to rest on his laurels and wants to continue improving and developing as a fully-rounded player.