Palmegiani thriving for team he grew up rooting for

October 14th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz., -- As an Alberta native (by way of Venezuela),  has grown up a Blue Jays fan “my whole life,” he says. He also watched this summer as that home-country team called up infield prospects like Davis Schneider and Spencer Horwitz down the stretch in the club’s pursuit of the postseason.

Now in the Arizona Fall League, he’s closer than ever to achieving a childhood dream, and lately, he’s been showing the bat that could get him to Toronto at some point in 2024.

Toronto's No. 18 prospect homered, walked and drove in a pair of runs to help lead Surprise to a 10-2 win over Mesa at Surprise Stadium on Friday.

The homer came in the seventh inning in the final at-bat of the right-handed slugger’s afternoon. After fouling off three pitches earlier in the at-bat, Palmegiani got a 2-2 fastball on the inner half from A’s right-hander Yunior Tur and sent it 407 feet down the line in left with an exit velocity of 103 mph.

It marked his second homer of the Fall League, each of which has come in his last three games.

“Just prepare with the hitting coach what [the pitcher’s] got,” said Palmegiani, who is now 9-for-28 (.321) through eight AFL games. “Be prepared to attack what I can do damage on, and ideally leave what he gets swing and miss on. Just fight for a pitch that I can handle, and that’s what happened.”

That power and approach have been part of the 23-year-old corner infielder’s game since the Jays took him in the 14th round in the 2021 Draft out of the College of Southern Nevada. He clubbed 23 homers this past season in 128 games between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo (second-most in the system), giving him 20-plus long balls in each of his first two full Minor League campaigns. He also walked 13.1 percent of the time and finished with a .255/.364/.478 slash line over 557 plate appearances.

"I learned this year to trust my swing as much as I can,” he said. “There are going to be swing-and-miss days and swing-and-miss pitches. But it’s not your swing, as long as we’re thinking about it and dialing in on what we can do best.”

Given how Palmegiani played in the upper Minors during the summer, his Fall League assignment isn’t about making up for lost time, as is the case for so many other Fall Leaguers. Instead, it could almost be viewed as a de facto Major League audition ahead of 2024 Spring Training as Toronto weighs its offseason options. Power should certainly be on the organization’s mind after Jays hitters produced only one extra-base hit in its AL Wild Card round series loss to the Twins.

Instead, Palmegiani views his time in the desert more as an opportunity for growth than a proving ground, noting he’s also pleased to get more defensive looks at both third and first base as he tries to find a defensive home. He did turn a keen eye toward the late callups, however, knowing he could slug his way to a similar chance next year.

“They’re a great example to me and any other Minor Leaguer in our system,” Palmegiani said. “It shows that when we get the call, we’re going to be ready to do whatever it takes to help the team win, whether it’s going nuts for a couple games like Davis did or just putting in your grain of salt.”

Palmegiani took one of 16 free passes issued by Mesa pitchers in Friday’s contest. That marks the most walks allowed by a single team in a Fall League game since Peoria walked 17 against Mesa in a 10-inning contest on Nov. 1, 2021.