LHP Joe Palumbo Could Be Most Impactful Rangers Prospect in 2020
When looking at the 2020 Texas Rangers' 40-man roster as currently constructed, it's hard to pick out a young player that still has prospect status that could make a significant impact during the 2020 season in Arlington.
Names like left-handed starters Brock Burke, Taylor Hearn and Kolby Allard stand out, as does right-handed bullpen arm Jonathan Hernandez, but the one name I continue to come back to personally is 25-year-old left-handed pitcher Joe Palumbo.
Coming out of high school in Upstate New York as a 30th round pick in 2013, Palumbo has had his share of ups and downs in baseball. Palumbo spent two years in Rookie ball with the Rangers in the Arizona League and didn't break out until excelling as a reliever and a starter in low Class A in '16. While in Hickory, Palumbo went 7-5 and posted a 2.24 ERA in 96.1 innings pitched.
Then, adversity really struck Palumbo as he blew out his elbow in 2017, later resulting in Tommy John surgery in April 2017. The crafty lefty bounced back though, finding his stuff again in June, resulting in a strong minor league season in Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 3.01 ERA in 80.2 innings, earning a Major League call-up.
His first stint in the big leagues didn't go so well, posting a 9.18 ERA in 16.2 innings of work, but that first taste showed signs of what the lefty can become out of the bullpen.
Palumbo's curveball is a serious problem for left-handed hitters. Not only is it nasty against lefties, it even gives right-handed hitters fits. According to Fangraphs, Palumbo threw his curveball nearly 25 percent of the time in 16.2 innings in the majors, creating a value of -2.18 (the more negative you are in value on pitches, per Fangraphs, the better).
Along with Palumbo's devastating curveball, his fastball is a tough pitch to handle. He's not a big guy — 6'1", 168 lbs — but he has a fastball that reaches 96 mph and gets on hitters quicker than they expect in the box. Additionally, Palumbo understands the importance of using his changeup, which continues to get better and should be an average third offering.
The best part about Palumbo is that he's a pitcher, not a thrower. In today's game, you need to know how to attack hitters and set them up throughout counts, rather than blowing fastballs by them. That's what will help Palumbo find success in the majors, whether that's as a mid-rotation starter or an arm in the bullpen.
Texas' rotation appears set at the moment, so the Rangers need some young arms to emerge for the bullpen, which was a problem last season (21st in baseball with a 4.66 ERA, .340/.454/.794 slash line allowed). Palumbo can eat some innings when needed and could become a late-inning reliever the Rangers can lean heavily on, should he continue to develop on the trajectory he has in the last year or so.
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