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The 2020 MLB draft (also known as the Rule 4 draft), bringing players into the league from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, is the most unusual in memory since the draft began. Instead of the 40 rounds of draft picks that the clubs would make, there are just five this year, one tonight and four tomorrow. Additionally, to help protect the teams’ financial situations (really?), clubs only have to pay a maximum of $100,000 towards the players’ signing bonuses this year with the balance being paid in 2021 and 2022.
After selecting Vanderbilt infielder/outfielder Austin Martin in the first round and Florida State pitcher CJ Van Eyk in the second, the Blue Jays went on to select pitcher Trent Palmer from Jacksonville University in the third round.
Trent Palmer is a hard-throwing righty who got people’s attention in the Cape Cod League last year and is a 6-foot-1 righty, weighing 230 pounds. In his freshman year, as a reliever, he had a 2.86 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, striking out 46 and walking 18 in 44 innings. He followed that up with 21 outings in 2019, making nine starts and throwing 61 1/3 innings, with a 4.99 ERA and 1.60 WHIP, striking out 70 and walking 30. He threw 18 2/3 innings in the Cape last summer, posting a 1.45 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, striking out 21 with eight walks and, reportedly, hit 97 mph on the radar gun. He started out the abbreviated 2020 season as a starter, making four starts and logging 27 2/3 innings with a tiny 1.30 ERA and 0.61 WHIP, striking out an incredible 41 batters with just five walks, probably helping him trend upwards.
MLB.com ranked Palmer at #114 on their board, grading his fastball at 55 with a 50 slider, a 45 curveball and a 55 changeup, noting that his control rates as 45 and overall as a 45. Some scouts are talking about him as a reliever but give him a chance to start long term because he has three or four pitches in his arsenal with the ability to maintain velocity deeper into games. MLB.com likes the sink on his fastball as well as the changeup (a splitter0 that he throws with “good arm speed and downward action” while his slider has “sweeping action, but with some depth.”
Baseball America ranked Palmer at #165 on their top-500 list. They noted that he got plenty of scouting attention in the early season after his work in the Cape Cod League and write that “Palmer threw much better strikes this spring than he previously did as a reliever with Jacksonville in 2018 and 2019, and scouts think of him firmly as a top 200 prospect because of his improvement.” They note his fastball sat 92-95 mph, touching 96 and note that his slider and changeup are both “above-average.”
Palmer twice won the Atlantic Sun conference Pitcher of the Week award in 2020 and was named to the ASUN All-Freshman Team in 2018. Keith Law had him ranked at #76 and notes that folks described him as an “analytics darling” but scouts don’t love the body, although in video I’ve seen, he looks thick, but not portly.
What do you think of the Jays’ third-round pick in the 2020 draft? Let us know in the comments!
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