Parker Messick already knew which team had drafted him, but he needed to keep it a surprise for a bit longer. The broadcast that would announce his name as the Guardians’ second-round selection — No. 54 overall, making him the highest draft pick in Plant City High School history — was in a commercial break.
Messick’s agent, Hank Sargent, had called a few minutes prior for the first time since the draft began, delivering the news. When Messick returned to the room that included about three-dozen family and friends, he set up a group of hats. There was Cleveland, San Diego, others from that range of picks, too. He wanted to make them guess.
“I have a pretty good poker face, so I just let it sit there and didn’t let them know where I was going,” Messick said late Sunday night.
When it became official, Messick walked forward and grabbed the Guardians’ hat as the draft party erupted. The left-handed pitcher spent his last three seasons with Florida State, and he finished his redshirt sophomore year with a 7-5 record and 3.38 ERA, striking out 144 batters while walking 18. He added 8 mph of velocity to his fastball in high school, then more with the Seminoles and pitching coach Jimmy Belanger while developing a slider — creating a four-pitch mix.
MLB.com ranked him the No. 54 prospect entering the night, and the slot value for that pick is $1,407,100, according to Baseball America.
“It was just kinda like a moment where you made your dreams come true,” Messick said.
Once the 2022 season ended with the Seminoles, Messick traveled to San Diego for the MLB draft combine, where he didn’t throw in front of scouts — they had already seen him during the season and “you don’t really need to go and make another impression” — but met with organizations for interviews. His dad, T.J., thought Messick might have one or two, but when his son sent him his schedule, he was shocked. Messick had 15.
Cleveland was one of the teams he held a Zoom interview with after the combine ended, Messick said, but they didn’t give any hints about a possible selection. But he knew they were interested, so he tried to leverage his strengths.
When teams asked Messick questions about pitching and his mentality on the mound, his answers included preparation and competitiveness influenced his weekend starts for the Seminoles. Messick worked out of the bullpen his freshman year, but he earned the Friday night starter’s job heading into the 2020-21 season — boosted by a Florida Collegiate Summer League campaign where he was the Cy Young Award winner.
That redshirt freshman season with FSU, he went 8-2 with a 3.10 ERA. He threw eight shutout innings in his third start. Messick settled into his new rotation spot, and he finished as the ACC’s freshman and pitcher of the year. His circle changeup continued to blossom into his top pitch, too.
Before his FSU career, he guided Plant City to the 2019 Class 8A state championship. The team finished that season with a 30-2 record, as Messick paced them on the mound with his 11-1 mark and 1.06 ERA. He struck out 125 hitters. He walked just 18.
In the regional final, Messick tossed a one-hit shoutout. In the state semifinal, he threw a three-hit shutout.
“What he did in the regional final and a state semifinal game was just unbelievable,” Mike Fryrear, Plant City High School’s head coach, said last week.
Those years with Fryrear and the Raiders built on a foundation that eventually led Messick to Sunday night. One of Cleveland’s scouts sent him a congratulatory message after the pick. He hasn’t been to Cleveland or Arizona, the location of the Guardians’ player development complex. He doesn’t know anyone in the organization, either.
But after setting no expectations for the draft, and letting its unpredictability unfold however it did, Messick felt a sense of relief when his phone buzzed with Sargent’s name. A long evening — well worth the wait, he said — had ended with him as a draft pick.
“It’s just definitely a memory I will not forget,” Messick said.