The Toronto Blue Jays select pitcher Trent Palmer in the third round of the 2020 MLB Amateur Draft.
Who: Trent Palmer
Born: April 02, 1999 in Rochester, Minnesota (21 years old)
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 230 lbs
Drafted out of: Jacksonville University
MLB Pipeline Grades:
Rank: 114th overall
Fastball: 55 Curveball: 45
Slider: 50 Changeup: 55
Trent Palmer began his baseball career with Anoka High School in Anoka, Minnesota, where he also led his club team, East Metro, to a 94-7 record over his seven years at the school before attending Jacksonville University.
As a freshman at Jacksonville, Palmer would find himself in the back end of the bullpen, making 27 appearances over the year primarily being used as a set-up man. He would appear in over 44 innings while throwing to a 3-1 record with a 2.86 ERA, two saves and 46 strikeouts.
In 2019, Palmer would switch between being a starter and in the bullpen, appearing on the mound 21 times with nine being a starter. He would be used as the Saturday starter and would finish the 2019 collegiate season with a 4.99 ERA with 70 strikeouts, 30 walks, and a 1.598 WHIP.
He would also find himself pitching in the Cape Cod Baseball League that summer, suiting up in seven games out of the bullpen for the Wareham Gateman. He would find some success during this brief tenure, pitching to an impressive 1.45 ERA with 21 strikeouts in just 18.2 innings of work.
While the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined the collegiate baseball season for the 2020 season, Palmer would start in four games for Jacksonville before the season came to an end. He would appear in 27.2 innings and would pitch to an impressive 1.30 ERA with a 0.614 WHIP and 41 strikeouts during his draft year.
What to watch for
Standing at 6’1″, Palmer does not really fit the mold of being an MLB starter, but scouts are not quick to write him off just because of his size.
The right-handed pitcher features a solid 3-4 pitch mix, with his primary pitch being a sinking fastball that sits in the 91-96 MPH range. His best off-speed pitch is his change-up, which has a significant drop and can be found at around 83 MPH. Pair this with a sweeping slider and a 4th pitch 70 mph curveball, and it is easy to see that Palmer does possess the tools that could translate to being an MLB starter.
Palmer has a very repeatable delivery, which bodes well with his repertoire of pitches. He has a huge stride towards home plate and you can easily see why his fastball sits in the mid-90s. His arm angle is very repeatable which helps his change-up and slider lead to more strikeouts.
The one caveat on Palmer’s pitching record is his control, which is evident in his base on balls through nine innings (BB9) over the past three years (3.7, 4.4, and 1.6 respectively). This past season was his best in terms of control on the mound (although the small sample size could be deceiving), which is a positive considering he was used as a starter and pitched 27 innings before the season shut down. While the control is not the worst we have seen from a college-level pitcher, it’s one of those areas to keep an eye on over the next few years.
Where does Trent Palmer fit in the Blue Jays system
If Palmer signs with the Blue Jays (slot value is $805,000 at 77th overall), he will most likely be starting his pro career in the Class A system when baseball resumes, but the big question is where the Blue Jays will use the righty from Minnesota.
Scouts are divided on whether he should be in the rotation versus the bullpen, but I could easily see the Blue Jays try and stretch him out as a starter given his success (albeit small sample size) in 2020. He does have better numbers in 2018 and 2019 as a member of the bullpen, so the argument could easily shift to putting him in the pen when baseball resumes as well.
I personally would find it a bit odd that the Blue Jays would shift a third-round pick to the bullpen so early in his career given he does have some starting experience, but stranger things have happened. If Palmer can continue his 2020 success over the course of the next few years, look for around the 2023 season to be when the Minnesota native vies for a spot on the roster.