Black MiLB Players #11: Richie Palacios
After a shoulder injury and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his meteoric rise through Minor League Baseball, Richie Palacios is back wreaking havoc on pitchers from the left-handed batter’s box. With a crowded toolbox that includes versatility, speed, and on-base skills he has a chance to be a dynamic position player for the Cleveland Guardians very soon.
Background + Path To Professional Baseball
Richie Palacios is a twenty-four-year-old second baseman and outfielder from Brooklyn, New York who plays in the Cleveland Guardians organization. He comes from a family that has produced multiple professional baseball players across multiple generations. His father reached the Triple-A level of Minor League Baseball as a member of the Detroit Tigers organization, his uncle Rey played parts of three seasons with the Kansas City Royals, and his older brother Josh plays in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and made his MLB debut during the 2021 season.
Palacios had an excellent career at Berkeley Carrol High School, where he was one of the best infielders in the entire state of New York. The younger Palacios brother’s favorite athlete is Damian Lillard, as both of their paths to being professional athletes involved being turned away by top tier Division I schools despite being among the best in their respective classes because of their smaller statures. The infielder went on to have an illustrious three-year career at Towson University, compiling a ridiculous amount of accolades at the small Division I school. During his three years at Towson as the starting shortstop, he put up a .324/.430/.499 slash line, stole 76 bases while only getting caught 12 times, and put up 103 walks in comparison to only 56 strikeouts. He was drafted by Cleveland with their third-round pick(103rd overall) in the 2018 MLB Draft, receiving a $475,000 signing bonus.
Palacios’ professional career began after he was drafted in 2018, and he hit his way through three levels of Minor League Baseball in a forty-five-game stretch that began in late June. Across Rookie Ball, Short-Season A-Ball, and Full Season Low-A he hit .361 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage. He also stole seven bases and almost walked as much as he struck out. After the 2018 season, the former finance major’s stock skyrocketed due to the trail of destruction he left as he literally hit his way up the lower levels of Minor League Baseball in a couple of months with no issue.
While ramping up for the 2019 season, the now full-time second baseman discovered he had a lingering shoulder issue that wound up being a torn right labrum when he reported for spring training. After missing all of the 2019 season dealing with that injury, he suddenly had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the 2020 MiLB season and keeping him away from the game for another year. He saw the opportunity to truly get his body back to 100%, as the lingering effects of the shoulder surgery were still in close proximity and affecting his game. He used the extra time to get the complete range of motion back and root out all the lingering pain from not doing certain things like throwing from certain angles and from specific distances. The second-generation professional baseball player also put on a lot of muscle, filling out his lanky and slim frame.
Since making his return to Minor League Baseball in 2021, Richie Palacios has picked up where he left off. While he has since been promoted to Triple-A Colombus, Palacios was 4th in wRC+ amongst second basemen in all three Double-A leagues with more than 100 plate appearances. He has the 11th highest walk rate, the 12th lowest strikeout rate, and the fifth-best walk to strikeout ratio as well. Palacios had the 8th best batting average, 7th highest on-base percentage, 5th highest slugging, and 4th highest OPS amongst Double-A players who man the keystone position.
Richie Palacios is a second baseman/outfielder who is 5'10'’, and weighs around one hundred and eighty pounds. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed. He is built like your stereotypical infielder, except with more muscle mass and definition throughout the body.
Palacios stands upright in the left-handed batter’s box with the bat resting on his shoulder and his feet shoulder-width before a shin-high leg kick that is a precursor for his lighting-quick hands that come to life and spray line drives and fly balls to all fields. He has an above-average ability to make contact, as he is 14th in swinging strike percentage amongst all second basemen with more than 150 plate appearances in all three Double-A leagues and all three Triple-A leagues who are 24 or younger. He also has the ninth-lowest strikeout rate and 6th highest BB/K-ratio when compared to that same exact group of peers.
Most of his power will show in doubles, although due to the natural loft in his swing, the high rate of flyballs that he hits, and the fact that he is very athletic and strong Palacios could reach 20 home runs in a single season maybe once or twice. I definitely think he has the ability to hit a large number of doubles and a sizeable amount of triples due to his contact skills and all fields approach. He has some struggles against left-handed pitchers, although his on-base skills allow him to be tolerable against same-handed pitchers. The infielder’s leading tool is his ability to get on base, as he has posted walk rates over 14% at four of the five professional levels he has played at so far in his career.
Although he is not going to steal a lot of bases, Palacios is very fast on basepaths and is going to provide value for you as a run-scorer. He has great instincts and intelligence, coming from a family of professional baseball players that he still relies on for advice and insight. He is a top-tier baseball athlete who harnesses it to enhance his game as much as he possibly can. He is more than competent at second base, but due to the plethora of infielders fighting for the second base spot on the Guardians twenty-five-man roster, Palacios picked up an outfield glove for the first time this year. He has more than enough speed and range to play all three spots and looks competent in all three spots for someone that is new to the position. Versatility is highly valued in the Cleveland front office, so this development helps Palacios’s case as he tries to find a way to the major leagues.
Richie Palacios offers value to a ball club in many different facets: solid defense, versatility, on-base skills, athleticism, some power, and the ability to endure adversity. He also has the genes and insight of two former professional baseball players who happen to be his father and brother. He also has a brother he might share an MLB field with one day, which is a testament to how real and important MLB bloodlines are, especially for families that are a part of the African diaspora.