It seems like a small trade, but I think the Twins got a nice little piece for their budding young team, one that at least shows potential as opposed to the he-is-who-he-is player that Hermann has become. So who is Palka?
Palka was selected by the Diamondbacks in the third round of the 2013 MLB draft out of Georgia Tech. The former first baseman — who stands at 6 foot 2 and 200 pounds — was drafted because of his power bat, one that knocked 17 home runs in 237 at bats in his final season at Georgia Tech. He slashed an amazing .342/.436/.637 that final 2013 season, but due to a long swing, most didn’t feel those numbers would hold up, especially once professional pitchers would get him to chase.
Thus far, the lefty’s slash line has been what was expected (not too terrible, but not that great) and the power numbers have been everything envisioned when Palka was drafted. He saw a dip in his batting average and on-base percentage in 2014 — his first full season in the Minor Leagues — as he watched his strikeout rate rise to an alarming 24.8%. But that power was there as he belted 22 home runs (which tied him atop the leaderboard for the most in the Midwest League) and 23 doubles.
His 2015 season in the California League was — not surprisingly — better offensively. That strikeout rate rose yet again to a staggering 28.5% (striking out 164 times in 576 plate appearances) but the slash line came back to respectability and the power numbers grew. He slashed .280/.352/.532 with 29 home runs and 36 doubles (both good for third in the California League).
Palka seems fidgety at the plate. His hands come set right around eye level as he is seemingly moving the bat until he readies his swing. His right foot is a slight bit open and his knees are a bit bouncy. He certainly doesn’t look like an imposing presence at the plate, but he is big enough and has strong, quick hands that you have to respect his power. He has shown the ability to not simply be a pull-power hitter and can spread the ball around.
He surprisingly added 24 steals last season in 31 attempts. This seems like a bit of an outlier — his previous career high was nine — but shows that Palka has some speed. He should be reliable enough to keep it moving on the base paths, but should not be expected to reach 24 stolen bases again.
Palka was amid a a nice season for the Salt River Rafters — where he will remain and will be eligible to play as soon as he receives his Twins jersey — in the Arizona Fall League. Through 69 at bats, Palka was slashing .364/.449/.304 with two home runs and a team best 14 RBI. He has also struck out 12 times while walking seven, a vastly improved ratio albeit a drastically smaller sample size.
The 24-year old has since moved from first base to the outfield and went from being a Top 30 prospect for the Diamondback system to the Minnesota Twins deep farm system. His boom or bust approach at the plate, middling defense and lack of bat speed seem to have him destined as a platoon or role player. He seems to me to have an Ike Davis/J.T. Snow feel to him, which means he could be an impact at the big league level. A solid debut season in Double-A next year should prove some clarity as to whether Palka has the goods to succeed.