Name: Kevin Parada
Weight: 200 lbs.
Acquired: 2022 MLB Draft, 1st Round (Georgia Tech)
2022 Stats: 13 G, 40 AB, .275/.455/.425, 11 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 12 BB, 13 K, 0/1 SB, .400 BABIP (Rookie/Low-A)
Unlike most little leaguers, who gravitate towards the mound, or a prestigious position like shortstop or center field, Kevin Parada began playing catcher at a young age and stayed at the position. A California native, 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 the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. Considered potentially a second or third-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Parada rejected all suitors who came to him with offers, intent on attending college and honoring his commitment to Georgia Tech, a school that has had success developing highly touted catchers over the last few years.
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 League right after. 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 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.
A draft-eligible sophomore, Parada was considered by some sources as high as a top 5 prospect but fell to the Mets when they made their first first-round selection with the 11th overall pick. He signed for $5,019,735, a few hundred thousand dollars over the MLB-assigned slot value of $4,778,200, roughly two weeks later and was assigned to the FCL Mets to begin his professional career. He appeared in three games for them in mid-August and then was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets, where he appeared in 10 games from late-August until the end of the season, hitting .276/.463/.414 with 1 home run, 0 stolen bases in 1 attempt, and 10 walks to 12 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. He is able to make hard contact against velocity and spin. He can hit for power to all fields and does not sell out for power, as his chase and strikeout rates actually fell between his freshman and sophomore years while his power spiked exponentially.
Evaluating catcher defense is difficult, but most scouts and evaluators 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. His awareness of the strike zone is excellent, and in the Florida State League playoffs in 2022, he successfully challenged 13 pitches that were called balls on the field by the umpire and had them overturned into strikes.
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.
Kevin Parada falling to the Mets was seen as a coup, a cause of celebration much like Kumar Rocker falling to them in 2021 was, but this situation actually had a happy ending. Considered at least average with the offense and with the defense, Parada has a high floor and a potentially very high ceiling. He has a weird set-up and swing, but it worked for him in over 100 games at a high level college program and in limited innings as a professional so far, so here’s hoping it continues working against better and better pitchers.
There’s no defending the process that went into the Kumar Rocker debacle (not taking backup picks is just an incredibly short-sighted mistake), but the Mets seem to have made out like bandits regardless. You should ask questions anytime a guy projected in the top-5 falls significantly, but Parada’s slide seems to have more to do with some other odd choices rather than any flaws on his part. He’s a solid-catcher, has an advanced approach, and should produce above average power despite an odd setup. It’s everything you want in a highly drafted college bat.
The Mets must have been ecstatic when Parada, one of the handful of college position players with a legitimate argument for consideration in the “best college position player in the draft” conversation, fell to them at 11. Parada displayed excellent exit velocities and a keen eye at the plate during his limited pro debut in St. Lucie after the draft. He does have a strange setup at the plate, in which he points the bat towards the pitcher before getting into hitting position, that may need to be cleaned up as he moves up the organizational ladder and faces more advanced pitching, but the tools here are very advanced. He may need to refine his defensive game a little more before he’s ready to lead a big league pitching staff, but Parada is exactly the kind of advanced college position player prospect that the Mets haven’t really had in the system since Michael Conforto graduated to the big leagues in 2015.
The Mets got a bit of a gift with Kevin Parada, as the catcher was expected to go before the 11th pick in the draft. Despite being the same position as their top prospect, it was an excellent pick: he is a quality defender already, and was a strong college producer, hitting .341/.420/.636 in 112 games at Georgia Tech. While college numbers are largely nonsense, it’s nice to see an ability to hit for power and average, and it’s easy to dream on a tandem of him and Alvarez behind the plate. He is also athletic enough to see some innings in the outfield, which is always fun.