Rockies' No. 15 prospect fueled by competitive spirit

May 3rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox

Double-A Hartford left-handed starting pitcher learned to compete before he learned to succeed -- and that’s the proper order.

Palmquist, 23, the Rockies' No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was entitled to Major League Spring Training this year for the first time. He pitched five scoreless innings in three Cactus League appearances and put in a buzz-worthy performance after being sent to Minor League camp. The growth has continued with the Yard Goats. He is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA and 38 strikeouts with 12 walks in 27 innings pitched through five Eastern League starts.

It’s a performance that could put Palmquist on a fast track, in an organization whose list of starter prospects is populated mainly by pitchers earlier in their careers. When Palmquist’s chance comes, he’ll see if his deceptive arm angle, full pitch mix and aggressiveness -- necessary for a pitcher with average at best fastball velocity -- can lead to success.

Palmquist can reach back to his youth in Fort Myers, Fla., for a competitive spirit under hard-to-succeed circumstances for fuel.

“I was the younger brother, and my brother [Cody Palmquist, a former righty in the Rangers organization] was six years older than me,” Palmquist said. “Playing games with them and not always losing, but having to compete at such a high level to even come close to beating them, that’s what got me to where I never want to lose to this day.

“I have a hard time playing video games with teammates and whatnot, because losing is never fun. You’ve got to look them in the eyes the rest of the day. So it’s better to keep it for the other teams.”

While his overall numbers sparkle, Palmquist has had two starts that indicate he has the right kind of grit. On April 13, Palmquist struck out seven but also walked five in five innings against Bowie, though he yielded just two hits and no runs.

On Wednesday, Palmquist gave up three runs on four hits and three walks, but struck out six and took a 4-3 win over Binghamton in the seven-inning first game of a doubleheader. Palmquist’s final inning began with two on and no out, and it ended with him forcing a double-play grounder.

Palmquist is a product of an analytics-based emphasis on lanky left-handers with unusual arm angles whose fastball and cutter play faster than they actually are. At a listed size of 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Palmquist uses a lengthy stride and whip-like motion to produce a release point closer to home plate than many -- a trait known in the analytics glossary as “perceived velocity.”

The ability to spot his fastball is his best friend, but he mixes a slider, curveball and changeup to avoid being predictable. Using his mix at altitude will be a learning curve, but his drive and attitude will help.

“The changeup is going to be a crucial pitch in his development,” said Doug Linton, Rockies Minor League pitching coordinator. “The fastball plays up because of the metrics, and he does have a good feel for pitching.”

Palmquist was a third-round pick in 2022 out of the University of Miami, where he arrived with little fanfare out of Fort Myers Riverdale High School but soon established himself as a starter and a closer for the Hurricanes.

“I was a little kid from a small high school and a small community, Buckingham, Fla. [pop. roughly 4,500], not knowing what would happen in the big city of Miami,” Palmquist said. “I don’t think I was a big recruit. I had to work and make a name.”