Week: 6 G, 19 AB, .421/.476/.947, 8 H, 0 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 6 K, 0/0 SB (High-A)
2023 Season: 60 G, 232 AB, .267/.350/.444, 62 H, 14 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 23 BB, 65 K, 1/3 SB, .342 BABIP (High-A)
A California native, Kevin Parada 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. 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, hoping to be the next highly touted catcher from the school and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Mike Nickeas, Joey Bart, Matt Wieters and Jason Varitek.
The backstop just about did that. 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. 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. All-in-all, Parada hit .341/.420/.636 in 112 games at Georgia Tech, slugging 35 home runs, walking 47 times, and striking out 73 times.
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, and was assigned to the FCL Mets roughly two weeks later to begin his professional career. He appeared in three games for them in mid-August and then was then 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 unique pre-pitch setup, wrapping his bat behind his head and angling it down behind his back at about 4:00 while raising his lead shoulder. At Georgia Tech, with the aluminum NCAA bat, this unorthodox set up did not seem impact his ability to get himself set into a good hitting position, as he consistently made hard contact against both velocity and spin.
Through the beginning of June, 45 games in total, Parada hit .243/.337/.387. The backstop often looked unbalanced in his swing and late on hittable pitches, resulting in a lot of weak contact. At the beginning of Brooklyn’s home series against the Greenville Drive- in a game that probably should have been postponed because the Air Quality Index reached a level higher than it ever had been recorded before- Parada altered his pre-pitch setup, holding his bat at a much more conventional angle or starting his load earlier and balancing on his backfoot longer until his stride and front foot landing. In the 15 games since then, Parada has hit .339/.391/.610 with 20 hits.
In my own uneducated opinion from watching him, it appeared that the slightly heavier wood bat he was now using, as opposed to the NCAA aluminum bat, was altering the very precise timing he needed to make his pre-pitch setup work. He would be bringing his bat head up and more perpendicular to the ground simultaneously while loading up, the slight weight shifts of the many moving parts causing him to be late and get under more balls than Parada characteristically has been known for.
Evaluating catcher defense is difficult, but most scouts and evaluators believe that Parada is a below-average backstop at the present with the potential to improve but is not necessarily a lock to stay at the position in the future. He is mobile behind the plate, receives the ball well, has improved his framing ability, and has an accurate arm, but Parada has below-average arm strength and needs to improve blocking pitches. No one aspect of his defense behind the plate is terrible, but the cumulative sum is still below-average at the present. He is athletic enough to play in the outfield- he does not have a quick first step, but once he gets going, he should be speedy and rangy enough to handle left field with no major issues- but every effort and every care should be given to him continuing his development as a catcher before he is moved from one of the highest positions on the defensive spectrum to one of the lowest. To his credit, Parada has a high emotional and baseball IQ and is not one to shirk away from putting in the work and improving where improvements can be made.
Week: 1 G (1 GS), 7.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K (High-A)
2023 Season: 12 G (12 GS), 62.2 IP, 48 H, 11 R, 10 ER (1.44 ERA), 22 BB, 78 K, .300 BABIP (High-A)
They say good things come in bunches, and this week, the Mets had excellent pitching performances from multiple pitchers. Despite how well Dominic Hamel, Joey Lucchesi, Luis Moreno, Douglas Orellana, David Peterson, Christian Scott, Joander Suarez, and Blade Tidwell all pitched, Tyler Stuart stood above them all. The right-hander has been impressive all season, but this week’s start is a high-water mark for him in terms of innings pitched, pitches, strikeouts, and Game Score.
A three-sport star in high school, Stuart attended the University of Southern Mississippi after graduating from Herscher High School in Illinois and going undrafted in the 2018 MLB Draft. He redshirted in his freshman year, having agreed with Southern Miss pitching coach Christian Ostrander that his delivery needed a complete overhaul. He got back on the field at a competitive level that summer, playing for the Amsterdam Mohawks in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, but his time back on the diamond was short. At some point prior to his joining the team, he hurt his UCL. The right-hander had been ignoring it up until that point, but the elbow bothered him to the point that he finally underwent an MRI, which revealed that the ligament was partially torn and would need surgery to fix.
Stuart missed the entire 2020 season recovering from Tommy John surgery; not that it really mattered much, as the NCAA ended the season early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was cleared to resume baseball activities that summer and ended up pitching in the Deep South Summer Collegiate League, a pop-up college summer league that operated that summer. He faced live batters for the first time in years there, felt fine, and returned to Southern Mississippi in the fall ready to finally to pitch for the Golden Eagles. There were ups and downs, but in the Spring, he finally took the mound at MM Roberts Stadium. Appearing in 13 games in relief, the right-hander posted a 7.16 ERA in 16.1 innings, allowing 16 hits, walking 7, and striking out 9. While the numbers weren’t the best, Stuart was pleased with his season, as he was focusing mainly on keeping his mechanics consistent and developing his slider. That summer, he played for the Bourn Braves of the Cape Cod League, and it was there that everything seemed to click in place for Stuart. Appearing in 4 games and logging 6.0 innings total, he did not allow a run, scattering 4 hits, walking 4, and striking out 6. More importantly than the surface stats, he felt good before, during, and after his appearances, he learned a four-seam fastball grip and was able to throw with more velocity as a result, and began developing a changeup.
Everything came together for Stuart in 2022. Starting 4 games and appearing in 22 total, the 22-year-old posted a 3.38 ERA in 40.0 innings, allowing 34 hits, walking 13, and striking out 38. The Mets selected Stuart in the 6th round of the 2022 MLB Draft and signed him for $220,000, slightly under the MLB-recommended slot value of $288,700. He made three appearances at the end of the season, 1 for the FCL Mets and two for the St. Lucie Mets and posted a 9.82 ERA in 3.1 innings, allowing 4 hits, walking 3, and striking out 7. This season, he began the year with the Brooklyn Cyclones and has put together an incredible first half, leading the South Atlantic League in ERA by almost a full run.
The 6’9”, 250-pound right-hander throws from a low three-quarters, almost sidearm arm slot with a short action through the back. This whippy, slingy motion gives his pitches some natural tail, and Stuart naturally developed a sinker as a result. The pitch is his bread-and-butter, a low-to-mid-90s offering with some arm-side run and sink. He also throws a four-seam fastball that has a little more velocity, sitting in the mid-90s, but rarely uses it, preferring his sinker almost entirely.
Complementing the pitch is a slider that sits in the low-to-mid-80s, ranging 81 to 86 MPH. The pitch has sweeping, two-plane break and has been an effective weapon against right-handers and left-handers alike this season, as Stuart can command it to both sides of the plate. He also mixes in a fringy changeup that sits in the mid-80s that may one day be a more viable pitch with more repetition, use, and development.