Parra's bat may give Rockies life on the road

Outfielder known for consistently putting ball in play

Parra's bat may give Rockies life on the road

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With a contact-based offensive style that should let him take advantage of the big outfield at Coors Field and put the ball in play on the road, outfielder Gerardo Parra is seen as the latest attempt at a more portable Rockies team. Throughout the team's existence, of course, offensive performance, and results, are usually dramatically poorer on the road.

"I keep hearing that," Parra said. "For me, it's the same baseball at home and on the road, just play 100 percent and try to win. But in Colorado, people say there is a difference. I want to see now for myself. Hopefully, I'll have the same feeling everywhere."

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Parra, who turns 29 on May 6, brings a high contact rate -- for his career, bat touches ball on 91.1 percent of his swings at balls in the strike zone, and 81.8 percent overall, according to Fangraphs.com.

For perspective, Carlos Gonzalez, a power hitter rather than a contact guy like Parra, makes contact 85.9 percent of the time in the zone and 74.2 percent overall; Nolan Arenado, during his 42-homer season in 2015, had rates of 90.9 and 80.2, respectively.

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More contact means more balls in play. Even in parks that don't reward hitters like Coors Field, putting a ball in play could move a runner in scoring position and fouling off pitches stresses the hurler. And, last year, Parra simply hit -- .291 overall, which included a .328 average and .886 OPS with the D-backs before he was traded to the Orioles and struggled in his only experience in the American League.

"Contact rate was appealing, especially for Jeff [Bridich, the Rockies' general manager] when looking for players this winter," manager Walt Weiss said. "I like the fact he can impact the ball. He doesn't strike out a whole lot. There's a lot of space in our place. If you put the ball in play, you've got a decent shot of it hitting the grass somewhere. All those things that are his strengths, they're maybe even a little enhanced for us."

Parra said while playing against the Rockies for much of his career with the D-backs, he didn't notice a difference in the club. He wasn't armed with the history that shows the Rockies have had just one winning road record (41-40 in 2009) or any of the other dramatic splits. Now he plans to ignore the history that often has burdened the Rockies.

"There are some places where it's hard to see the pitch, and some places, like Chicago at Wrigley, it's hard to see a fly ball and there's a lot of wind," Parra said. "I know in Denver the batter can really see the ball, and the outfield is huge -- balls can fall in for a single or even a double. But it's the same baseball."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.