28. Carson Palmquist (79 points, 14 ballots)
In Palmquist, the Rockies have a 22-year-old lefty with a low, funky arm slot with potential utility as both a starter and reliever. The 6’3” Palmquist wasn’t highly scouted out of high school, going undrafted (despite not allowing a single earned run during his junior and senior seasons) and playing for the University of Miami.
In the brief 2020 season, Palmquist showed well out of the bullpen. Given a full season in 2021, he was a dominant closer with a 2.22 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 15.1 K/9 rate, and 1.6 BB/9 rate in 44 innings across 22 appearances. In 2022, Palmquist got the chance to be a starter and ran with it. In 84 innings and 16 starts, the lefty posted a 2.89 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 12.6 K/9 rate, and 3.4 BB/9 rate. In all during his three seasons with Miami, Palmquist struck out over 36% of the batters he faced while walking fewer than 8%.
From a stuff perspective, Palmquist added a change-up to his fastball/slider portfolio once he joined the starting rotation, all coming from that low lefty arm slot. It’s a profile reminiscent of Kyle Freeland, as many noted at the time he was picked. Those numbers and the stuff were enough for the Rockies to make Palmquist their third round pick in the 2022 draft, 88th overall, and give him a $775k bonus that was about $62k over slot.
Here’s a look at Palmquist from May 2022 courtesy of Kyler Peterson:
With a loose arm and a funky, lower-slot delivery, Palmquist has a sneaky fastball that tops out at 96 mph in shorter relief stints but sits in the low 90s. As a starter, he’s topped out at 93 mph and averaged just over 90 mph, but it plays up because of the deception from his delivery and his excellent command of it. His upper-70s slider features some quick break, is extremely tough on lefties and misses bats consistently. He had mostly used those two pitches coming out of the pen, but has gone to his fading changeup a lot more frequently as a starter.
While Palmquist’s willingness to use that third pitch perhaps gives him the chance to start, scouts are unsure if he has the overall command, especially of his secondary stuff, to do so long-term, particularly with his funky delivery. The Rockies could send him out as a starter knowing they can put the southpaw in the bullpen and get him to the big leagues in a hurry.
FanGraphs lists Palmquist 38th in the system (and 116th among 2022 draft prospects) as a 35+ FV player:
A low-slot lefty starter with three pitches, Palmquist struggles to command his fastball to his glove side, which makes it tough to set up his slider. He is capable of missing bats with all three pitches, though his in-zone ability to do so is limited, especially with his fastball. Still, his level of funk, his mechanical looseness and athleticism and repertoire depth still look like they could work through a lineup once in a multi-inning relief role, one that leans more on his secondaries than Palmquist did in college.
The Rockies will give Palmquist a chance to start and they see him in that role as a professional, but if that doesn’t work out, the left-hander has already proven he can thrive as a reliever in D-1 baseball. Palmquist only threw one inning as a pro in 2022, so he’ll begin his minor league track record in 2023, possibly in High-A given the pedigree. I have Palmquist in the 40 FV fringe that occupied the bottom third of my ballot and another several prospects just out of the top 30, but if he’s a successful starter in 2023 he’ll be on my mid-season list.