What does the future hold for Nationals' Mitchell Parker?

The Nationals' No. 21 ranked prospect shined once again in his start against the Houston Astros on Sunday, making history in the process. But with some pitchers due to return from injury, how does the surprising lefty fit into the Nationals' future?
Houston Astros v Washington Nationals
Houston Astros v Washington Nationals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

On an overcast Sunday afternoon, LHP Mitchell Parker impressed many around the baseball after he threw a gem against the Houston Astros. After earning a win against a star-studded Dodgers lineup in Los Angeles in his first career start, Parker was once again asked to face a stout lineup, this time against the Houston Astros in his home debut, and he didn't disappoint. Against a lineup that featured the likes of Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker, Parker threw 7 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, while striking out eight batters and walking none. Making his start even more impressive is the fact that he threw just 73 pitches, 57 of which were strikes, to do so.

According to Nationals PR, Parker, the Nationals' fifth round pick in 2020, taken out of San Jacinto State Junior College, became the 5th pitcher in AL/NL history (since 1901) to strike out at least 12 batters and walk none in the first two starts of his career, joining Shota Imanaga, Tanner Bibee, Johnny Cueto, and Andy Sonnanstine. He also became the first pitcher in franchise history to throw 7 shutout innings in fewer than 75 pitches, and the first major league pitcher to throw 7 shutout innings in 73 or fewer pitches since Braves RHP Kyle Wright did so against the Pirates in August 2022.

While Parker has been a pleasant surprise this season, he was called up to replace Josiah Gray, who went on the IL last week and is now throwing from 75 feet. Cade Cavalli looks to be on track for a June return as well, which would put Parker on the outside looking in. Despite his success thus far, the question remains as to what the Nationals will do with Parker once Cavalli and Gray return to the rotation. The obvious solution would be to remove Patrick Corbin from the rotation, whether that be by sending him to the bullpen or designating him for assignment, but this franchise isn't known for making those types of decisions, so don't expect one to be made. Trevor Williams has had a nice start to his 2024 campaign, but he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball last season and has experience coming out of the bullpen, so he could be a candidate to get replaced by Parker, too. What the Nationals decide to do regarding the future of the starting rotation is very much up in the air, but decisions won't have to be made for at least a couple of weeks. So until then, we can enjoy a few more starts from Mitchell Parker.