'Overlooked' no more, lefty Palmquist Rockies' 3rd-round pick

July 18th, 2022

DENVER -- Left-handed pitcher Carson Palmquist went his junior and senior seasons at Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Fla., without giving up an earned run. Yet no team drafted him in 2019.

But Palmquist is the type of guy who answers a no by finding an opportunity. He broke through at the University of Miami as a reliever in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and he earned 14 saves as the closer in ‘21.

Presented with a chance to earn a spot in the Hurricanes' rotation this season, Palmquist struck out 208 in 140 1/3 innings in three seasons at Miami and enticed the Rockies to make him their third-round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft on Monday.

“It honestly didn’t make much sense, not getting drafted out of high school, but I wasn’t too worried about it,” said Palmquist, who is listed at a lanky 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. “I wanted to get my schooling in. It all worked itself out, and I’m beyond happy.

“It’s a good thing that we can still be developed and get our bodies built to where they need to be.”

Palmquist is athletic -- a good enough basketball player to help his high school team to a Florida state semifinal -- and intriguing.

The 21-year-old southpaw responded to the chance to start against strong lineups in a tough conference. Palmquist's fastball -- 93 mph as a reliever, around 90 as a starter -- and his sweeping slider receive high grades as pitches that work inside against right-handed hitters. As a starter, he added a changeup that made him a threat to the other side of the plate.

Palmquist comes at a funky lower arm slot usually associated with relievers. However, he is not much different from Kyle Freeland, who has had a solid run in the Rockies’ rotation.

“I love being a closer, being in the bullpen -- there is a lot of fun being able to close huge games,” Palmquist said. “But my true love is being a starter, coming from high school.

“My aspirations are just wherever they need me -- starting, even closing -- whichever one they need me to fit in. And I'm going to use my best stuff and do my best to make an impact.”

Palmquist likely won’t have to make that choice now. Often with such pitchers, the Rockies begin them as starters to give them experience in many situations, then let performance in the Minors dictate the decision.

“Anytime you can go on the left side and give your club an opportunity to have a left-handed starter -- it’s different if we thought he was just a bullpen [guy] overall, but we don’t,” said Danny Montgomery, the Rockies’ vice president and assistant general manager of scouting. “He’s been able to log some innings and do it with some efficiency. Honestly, that's where he’s going to end up being right now. 

“With that [arm] angle, we're going to give him every opportunity to do that, because he’s giving you a lot of opportunities. And his splits have been pretty good against right and left-handers, which is another plus.”

Starting or relieving doesn’t matter as long as Palmquist has a chance to compete.

Palmquist started a rivalry game against Florida -- which featured Sterlin Thompson, a frequent opponent in youth ball whom the Rockies selected 31st overall. Teammate Yohandy Morales knocked a two-run, fourth-inning homer to give the Hurricanes the lead. Afterward Palmquist told the News-Press of Fort Myers, “I knew the game was over with. We just had to go out there and get the rest of the outs.”

His coach, Gino DiMare, appreciated the confidence even though he spent the rest of the time not counting the victory until it was official.

“I was just thinking it was more the life that I had at that moment in a huge rivalry game,” Palmquist said. “It was a little over the top. Just me talking dumb.”

But he believes in himself to that degree.

“I’d say I’m just a really hard worker, always kind of overlooked on the baseball field,” he said. “I’ll show everyone that they shouldn’t overlook me because I’ll work harder than everyone you’ve got. I’ll let the baseball do the talking.”