KC Royals: Gerardo Parra Is Not A Good OF Solution

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KC Royals rumors again insist that general manager Dayton Moore is interested in signing outfielder Gerardo Parra, according to Fox Sports reporter Jon Morosi. But Parra’s limited skill set, and recent defensive collapse, make him a poor substitute for Alex Gordon.

The biggest weakness in the 28-year-old Gerardo Parra’s game is that he’s almost useless against left-handed pitchers. Parra’s career slash line against lefties is an anemic .232/.296/.302. That’s Omar Infante in 2015 level, which simply isn’t acceptable for the KC Royals. The left-handed hitting Gerardo Parra does hit righties at a .289/.335/.432 clip, for a solid OPS+ of 110 (10% better than an average major league hitter).

Second, Gerardo Parra struggled to adjust to the American League last season after playing the first 6 1/2 years of his career in Arizona and Milwaukee. Parra hit a scorching .328/.369/.517 for the Brewers into July, and crashed to .237/.268/.357 after Milwaukee dealt him to the Orioles at the trade deadline.

The third concern about Parra is the defensive slide he suffered last season. While he enjoys an excellent defensive reputation with 55 outfield assists the last five seasons, Parra’s defensive value disappeared in 2015.

Gerardo Parra’s arm remained strong, but his range went in the tank no matter where he played. In LF his Ultimate Zone Rating prorated over 150 games (UZR/150) at Fangraphs.com was a terrible -15.0, in RF the UZR/150 was -10.3, and in CF his UZR/150 dipped to an atrocious -40.3.

Parra’s defensive troubles aren’t just the product of one season, or one metric. His DEF numbers went negative in 2014 at -5.4, before cratering to -22.1 in 2015.

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The bottom line is that Gerardo Parra in no way comes close to replacing the All-Star level play Alex Gordon has provided to the Kansas City Royals since 2011. Parra would, however, be a reliable veteran bat that could platoon with Paulo Orlando, leaving Jarrod Dyson able to come off the bench if we presume another corner outfield position can be filled by farm system candidates like Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez, and Bubba Starling.

To me, the most puzzling thing to explain is Parra’s failing defense. What happened to his range? Perhaps he had some kind of nagging leg problem, but he lacked any reported injury during the 2015 season. If he had some kind of lower-body injury, you’d also expect a downgrade in his base-running. But, Parra’s BsR at Fangraphs improved to positive numbers in 2015 (2.0) after posting a -1.3 in 2013 and -0.4 in 2014.

That doesn’t look like a guy suffering from an unknown leg injury.

The other possibility is that defensive metrics are notoriously volatile and need at least two years of data to be reliable. Could Parra just have been suffering from some extreme variance the last two years?

Next: Candidates To Replace Alex Gordon

The only upside to the KC Royals signing Gerardo Parra is his price. Parra should be much less expensive than Alex Gordon given that he’s really more of an outstanding fourth outfielder than a full-time player. If Parra’s price drops low enough, it could allow Dayton Moore to land a starting pitcher like Scott Kazmir—or even an expensive solution like Wei-Yin Chen.

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