With the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the Major League campaign and completely shutting down both the minor leagues and many college programs, young baseball players looking to get drafted in 2020 were put in a tough place. While the Blue Jays were the only team playing their home games outside their normal confines, teams across the league were struggling to make money and many of the clubs’ owners were starting to feel the financial strain from lost revenue to the delayed start to the campaign.
This led to the MLB Draft in 2020 being shortened to just five rounds and any player that went undrafted could reach an agreement with a Major League team for a maximum of $20,000. The 2021 MLB Draft would also be shortened from the usual 40 rounds but to a more modest 20 rounds.
The 2020 draft was full of excitement for Blue Jays fans, as the club was able to draft highly-touted infielder Austin Martin out of Vanderbilt University. Dubbed one of the best hitters in the draft, many did not believe that he would be available for the Jays at pick #5 but they wasted no time in selecting him when his name was still left on the draft boards. Following Martin, the Blue Jays selected:
Round 2. C.J. Van Eyk – RHP
Round 3. Trent Palmer – RHP
Round 4. Nick Frasso – RHP
Round 5. Zach Britton – C/OF
The Blue Jays started to restock their farm system with some pitching prospects but also did not select a single high-school player, which makes sense considering many prep programs were shut down due to COVID-19. While Van Eyk was drafted in the second round, a lot of eyes will be on third-round right-hander Trent Palmer after the solid 2021 campaign he put forward.
Considering none of these players got a taste of professional baseball during their draft year due to the minor leagues being canceled, this season was their first full campaign of playing in the Jays farm system and Palmer wasted no time setting himself apart from the crowd.
The Blue Jays drafted Trent Palmer in the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft and he looks to be a very promising prospect in the club’s farm system.
The Jacksonville University alum found himself spending the entire year down in Low-A Dunedin where he would start 16 games and pitch 63.0 innings. He would finish his rookie season with 83 strikeouts, 44 walks, and a 1.190 WHIP while also allowing 21 earned runs on his way to a 3.00 ERA.
Admittedly, the walks/command is something he will need to work on to bring down his 6.0 BB/9 as he progresses through the minor league ladder but his 11.9 K/9 and failure to give up a single home run all season are encouraging signs for the former Dolphins starter.
Standing at 6’1″, the right-hander has a repeatable delivery and uses his fastball, slider, and changeup to get hitters out, with MLB.com rating both his fastball and changeup at a 55. Palmer also has a work-in-progress curveball in the arsenal and currently finds himself ranked as the Blue Jays #29th ranked prospect.
Another interesting tidbit regarding Palmer’s first pro season is that he pitched two no-hitters, both seven-inning affairs that saw the Minnesota product rack up 19 strikeouts between both outings. His last five starts to the season saw the right-hander go atleast 5.0+ innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs per start and amassing double-digit strikeouts on two different occasions.
If he can continue to pitch like he did to finish the 2021 season, there is the potential that Palmer could run up the minor league system rather quickly. His ‘Alek Manoah’ like demeanor on the mound as well as his ability to pitch deep into ball games are attributes any team is looking for in a potential starter, there are just a few question marks that need to be figured out during his development that will determine whether he remains a rotation candidate or gets moved to the bullpen further down the road.
The biggest question for Palmer heading into 2022 is whether he can reel in the command issues and start walking fewer batters, as the elevated BB/9 stat is one that needs to come down in order for him to make it as a starter. Considering he will most likely move to High-A next year and possibly knock on AA doors sometime towards the end of the season, Palmer looks to be on track for an MLB ETA of 2024 and has the potential to be an absolute steal from the 2020 MLB Draft.