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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 49: John Parke

The first White Sox spot start up from Charlotte might not be a guy you’d expect.

John Parke’s superb control has marked a slow but steady rise up to Charlotte.
Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

John Parke

Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
220 pounds
Age: 27
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 68
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 74
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 78
SSS rank among all left-handed starting pitchers in the system: 2

John Parke has certainly been one of the most over-performing pitchers in the White Sox system. Even looking at Parke’s stats from his college resume, it’s surprising he was even selected as high as he was.

During Parke’s first two seasons with South Carolina, spanning 15 relief outings, he didn’t allow an earned run — although he walked 12 and struck out 13 in 12 innings of work. However, his luck failed with the Gamecocks in his junior season, when Parke suffered an 8.53 ERA and 1.74 WHIP by allowing 35 hits and nine walks while striking out 21 in 25 innings of work.

Yet despite all of that, White Sox scouts saw enough in Parke to grab him in the 21st round of the 2017 MLB draft. After receiving a $30,000 signing bonus, Parke went on to pitch in 14 games (10 starts) for the AZL White Sox and posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP covering 68 1⁄3 innings, allowing 65 hits (.248 OBA) and just nine walks (1.2 BB/9) but striking out 46 (6.1 K/9).

Parke bypassed Great Falls in 2018, splitting the season with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. Combined for both teams, he managed a 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 153 innings, allowing 159 hits (.267 OBA) and 39 walks (2.3 BB/9) while fanning 119 hitters (7.0 K/9). His numbers weren’t as good with Winston-Salem, for the obvious reasons reasons that the Dash play in a hitters’ ballpark and the competition was stronger. However, Parke likely was undergoing some serious fatigue, as he pitched 47 more innings than he did in his combined three years with South Carolina and the AZL Sox.

In 2019, Parke posted solid numbers for both Winston-Salem and Birmingham. In 12 starts totaling 69 innings for the Dash, he had a respectable 3.65 ERA and 1.32 WHIP as he relinquished 69 hits (.265 OBA) and 20 walks (2.6 BB/9) while fanning just 32 (4.2 K/9). Although his stats were decent, Parke probably wouldn’t have received a promotion on June 20 to Birmingham without injuries to pitchers like Bernardo Flores Jr. and Jimmy Lambert.

With that said, Parke has certainly made the most of his opportunity. In 14 starts spanning 76 1⁄3 innings for the Barons, he posted a rock-solid 2.59 ERA and 1.14 WHIP by ceding just 69 hits (.242 OBA) and 18 walks (2.1 BB/9) while striking out 43 (5.1 K/9). Pitching in cavernous Birmingham could account for some of Parke’s improvement, but it’s important to note that his strikeouts had risen while his walk rate has gone down despite pitching in a tougher league.

His combined 2019 numbers for Winston-Salem and Birmingham were:

7-6, 26 G, 26 GS, 3.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 145 1/3 IP, 140 H, 11 HR, 38 BB, 75 K

After the year’s rest in 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown, Parke returned to Birmingham to begin the 2021 season. He struggled in his return with the Barons, however, as he posted a 4.66 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in his 14 appearances (12 starts). In his 58 innings, he surrendered 57 hits (.249) and 21 walks (3.3 BB/9) while striking out 48 (7.4 K/9). Later in 2021, Parke was promoted to Charlotte, and surprisingly bested his Double-A numbers. In 11 starts for the Knights totaling 54 2⁄3 innings, Parke relinquished just 46 hits (.225 OBA) and 16 walks (2.6 BB/9) while fanning 38 (6.3 K/9). He was aided by a BABIP of just .244, but he also made his own luck in that regard by inducing grounders an incredible 59.1% of the time with Charlotte.

How does Parke succeed when he doesn’t have much more than a low-90s fastball? First of all, he has an effective changeup, which helps neutralize righties. Parke also features an above-average curveball, which helps stymie lefties, especially when at its best. Because Parke wasn’t overworked in college, his arm is relatively fresh, and he hasn’t missed many starts due to injury. Parke doesn’t beat himself on the mound by walking an inordinate amount of hitters, and his command is such that he almost wills opponents to hit worm-burners. He doesn’t try to do too much, and is comfortable letting his fielders do the grunt work, as evidenced by his relatively low strikeout total but high ground ball rates throughout his career.

Parke has exhibited good control throughout the minors (career 2.3 BB/9), but when hitters do get on, his above-average command helps him minimize damage because he usually hits the catcher’s glove with precision. Because of his command, Parke’s ERA has outperformed his FIP at nearly every stop throughout his minor league career. While an exception was made in 2021 in Birmingham (4.66 ERA, 4.00 FIP), Parke reverted to his norms with Charlotte (3.62 ERA, 4.68 FIP). Normally pitchers with low strikeout numbers get hit fairly hard and allow tons of homers. In his case, Parke has only allowed an OBA of just .253 while compiling just a 0.66 HR/9 ratio.

Having turned 27 in January, Parke’s progress in the system has been slow. As is typical for the organization, soft-tossing pitchers are viewed simply as organizational pieces and not as potential major league arms. This is somewhat surprising due to the trajectory of Mark Buehrle’s career with the Sox, but the Sox aren’t the only major league team that ignores soft-tossers in favor of those with triple-digit velocity.

Parke was left unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft, but that became a moot point anyway due to the lockout. Because of his low strikeout numbers, Parke has slipped under the radar throughout most of his minor league career. However, he possesses better command and control than any of his Triple-A counterparts and could be the first call-up to Chicago in 2022, as either a spot starter or low-leverage reliever.

2022 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

49. John Parke, LHSP
50. Victor Quezada, 3B
51. Haylen Green, LHRP
52. Sammy Peralta, LHRP
53. Yoelvin Silven, RHRP
54. Taylor Broadway, RHRP
55. Noah Owen, RHRP
56. Luis Curbelo, 3B
57. Bryce Bush, RF
58. James Beard, CF
59. Xavier Fernández, C
60. Wilber Sánchez, SS
61. Kohl Simas, RHRP
62. Johan Dominguez, RHSP
63. Jagger Rusconi, 2B
64. Ronaldo Guzman, LHSP
65. Laz Rivera, 3B
66. Adam Hackenberg, C
67. Will Kincanon, RHRP
68. Lane Ramsey, RHRP
69. Tommy Sommer, LHSP
70. Randel Mondesi, RF
71. Shawn Goosenberg, 2B
72. Zack Muckenhirn, LHRP
73. Cameron Butler, CF
74. Godwin Bennett, RF
75. Logan Glass, CF
76. Dario Borrero, 1B
77. Craig Dedelow, RF
78. Carlos Hinestroza, RHRP
79. Gunnar Troutwine, C
80. Kade Mechals, RHSP
81: Caberea Weaver, CF
82. Layant Tapia, SS
83. Homer Cruz, RHRP
84. Kaleb Roper, RHSP
85. Jerry Burke, RHSP
86. Emerson Talavera, RHRP
87. Isaiah Carranza, RHSP
88. Davis Martin, RHSP
89. Tyler Osik, 1B
90. Samil Polanco, 3B
91. Manuel Veloz, RHRP
92. Pauly Milto, RHRP
93. Fraser Ellard, LHRP
94. Colby Smelley, C
95. Manuel Guariman, C
96. Everhett Hazelwood, RHRP
97. Garrett Schoenle, LHRP
98. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
99. Anderson Comas, RF
100. Jake Elliott, RHRP