SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rangers camp, it was No. 6 prospect Joe Palumbo. Signed for $32,000 as a 30th-rounder in the 2013 Draft, Palumbo spent
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rangers camp, it was No. 6 prospect Joe Palumbo.
Signed for $32,000 as a 30th-rounder in the 2013 Draft, Palumbo spent his first two years as a pro in Rookie ball and didn't reach full-season ball until the end of 2015. The left-hander had a breakout season at age 21 last year, leading Class A South Atlantic League relievers in strikeout rate (12.8 per nine innings) and opponent average (.198). Moved into the rotation in late July after No. 4 overall pick Dillon Tate was traded to the Yankees, Palumbo recorded a 2.37 ERA in seven starts and threw more strikes than ever before.
• Rangers' Top 30 Prospects list
MLBPipeline.com: It's unusual for a high school player to sign for a relatively low bonus in the very late rounds of the Draft. What went into your decision to turn pro four years ago coming out of a Long Island high school?
Palumbo: In high school, I started off in a public school and transferred to a private school, and they failed to tell us it would mess up my eligibility. Since I couldn't pitch my senior year, I pitched in a men's league against older guys, ex-Division I players and ex-pro guys. The Rangers scout was able to follow me around and a couple other scouts, local guys from the Mets and Yankees, did too. I wanted to become a professional baseball player, no matter what round, no matter what type of money I got. It had been a dream of mine forever.
• Pipeline report: Rangers' camp
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
MLBPipeline.com: How difficult was it to spend almost three years before you got to the full-season level? Were you frustrated by your slow progress?
Palumbo: Coming in, I definitely had a lot to learn as a young kid out of high school, 18 years old. I had never been alone traveling before that. I came in with a lot to learn about the game. Where I'm at now, I've matured a lot. I'm learning every day, trying to get better every day.
MLBPipeline.com: What do you think made the difference in your big leap forward in 2016?
Palumbo: It all began in the offseason when I invested in my career. I went to a training facility I went to when I was young. A lot of pro guys in Long Island go to this place. Going into 2016, I knew I was starting off as a reliever, but I wanted to make a point of getting myself into the rotation. I matured a lot. I took way better care of myself and my body --- hydration, preparation, things like that.
MLBPipeline.com: What do you think your best pitch is? Your fastball ranges from 91-96 mph but you also have a nasty downer curveball.
Palumbo: I like throwing my curveball. I also like throwing all of my other pitches too. I'm constantly working on my fastball command, throwing my changeup, getting the proper extension on it. I'm just trying to get better. This past offseason, I really focused on fastball command. I think I did a pretty good job. I'm commanding my fastball better and hope it transfers well to this season.
MLBPipeline.com: The Rangers have a number of left-handed pitching prospects on the way in you, Yohander Mendez, Brett Martin and Cole Ragans. What's it like being part of an impressive group like that?
Palumbo: I'm pretty good friends with Yohander, Brett and Ragans. It's a great bunch of guys, a lot of talent. We're constantly trying to help each other out, give each other tips, whether it's in the weight room or with our pitches. I might ask them how they hold their changeup or curveball.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.