When junior Tyler Parmenter stepped onto the field for the first time as a freshman, he never thought he would end up becoming a pitcher for Arizona’s baseball team — but now he is one of the players to watch.
The Yuma, Ariz., native arrived in Tucson as a shortstop, having just declined an offer to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays, who had chosen him with the 480th overall pick in the 15th round of the 2011 MLB First Year Players Draft right out of high school.
Early in his first fall, he was asked to change positions for the first time and transitioned to an outfielder with a strong arm who dreamed of starting in right field. Although he had a solid start, he soon began to struggle and was unable to offensively produce. In a switch that revitalized a frustrated Parmenter, he was offered the chance to pitch, though he admitted he was not fond of the position.
“I didn’t like it at first, but I started to feel more comfortable over the summer and was soon throwing 95 mph,” Parmenter said. “I was able to hit that again over the fall and have thrown it three or four times since then. I feel a lot more confident with my pitches this year.”
In addition to learning a new position, Parmenter was also forced to come up with a few breaking balls to complement his fiery fastball.
“I’ve learned to throw a changeup and a curveball as well,” Parmenter said. “When the changeup is good, it will move away from the left-handed hitter, and when the curveball is on, it has a sharp 12-6 break.”
Regardless of his success over the fall, Parmenter said he is aware that he will have to continue improving and performing well if he’d like to earn more innings in the spring.
“There’s definitely some [higher] potential I expect myself to reach this season,” Parmenter said. “I still have to prove myself as we move into the spring, but it’s looking good at this point.
“Last year, I didn’t see as many innings as I wanted, and things didn’t go my way. … I’m really looking forward to some more opportunities this season.”
Junior catcher Jordan Berger is also stepping into the spotlight. After living in junior Riley Moore’s shadow for the past two seasons, Berger has finally proven himself enough offensively and defensively to make a serious run as Arizona’s next starting catcher.
“I’ve had a really good fall, and since Riley [Moore] has been sidelined due to injury, I’ve pretty much played every game,” Berger said. “I see myself getting some starts this year, hopefully at catcher, but if not there, then definitely at DH.”
As he made the most of his opportunities over this past fall and showed steady improvement in offensive and defensive statistics over his first two seasons, Berger will likely be under consideration for a consistent starting job.
“I’m definitely expecting a big year from him,” Parmenter said. “I think he’ll get many more opportunities as a junior, and he has been really efficient with the ones he’s had. Last year, at DH, [Berger] got some at-bats and really came up big.”
While a knee injury has sidelined Moore since the summer, Berger has been using that time to step up his game, training and conditioning over the summer and producing efficient results in his opportunities this fall.
“It was definitely the best fall I’ve had, and I improved a lot,” Berger said. “Riley didn’t play at all over the fall, and now we have three [non-starting] catchers who are pretty good and only getting better, so it’s got to be motivating for him to come back and try to re-secure his spot.”
Another player who teammates expect to have a breakout year is sophomore Cody Ramer. Last year, while the Simi Valley, Calif., native enjoyed more playing time than Parmenter and Berger, he compiled the lowest batting average of the three and only had 11 hits in 60 at-bats.
When asked about the role Ramer is expected to play on this year’s team, both Berger and Parmenter were quick to look past their teammate’s offensive woes last season and speak of how valuable of an asset he could be.
“I think Cody Ramer is definitely going to be a factor for us,” Berger explained. “He’s one of the best defensive players we have, and he can literally play almost every position: third base, second base, left, right, DH [to name a few]. He’s very athletic, really fast and he can swing it.”
Who to watch out for:
OF/RHP – #24 – Tyler Parmenter – Bats/Throws: R/R – Junior
DH/C – #29 – Jordan Berger – Bats/Throws: L/R – Junior
UT – #13 – Cody Ramer – Bats/Throws: L/R – Sophomore
Parmenter: Throws a fastball that consistently runs 92-94 mph, at times hitting up to 95
Berger: Has improved his batting and fielding percentage from .200 and .750, respectively, his freshman year to .311 and 1.000 last year
Ramer: Possesses outstanding defensive skills, versatility, speed and the ability to play any position
Other notable mentions:
RHP – Cody Hamlin – Bats/Throws: R/R – Junior college transfer
UT – #25 – Scott Kingery – Bats/Throws: R/R – Sophomore
3B/RHP – #3 – Bobby Dalbec – Bats/Throws: R/R – Freshman
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17