Name: Jaylen Palmer
Weight: 195 lbs.
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft, 22nd Round (Holy Cross High School)
2019 Season: 62 G, 242 AB, .260/.344/.413, 12 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 31 BB, 108 K, 1/4 SB, .434 BABIP (Rookie-Appy)
Canarsie native Jaylen Palmer attended Holy Cross High School over in Flushing, about 15 minutes over from Citi Field. His first few years in high school were relatively unremarkable, but a massive growth spurt changed all of that. He began his 2016 sophomore year a scrawny, 5’5”, 150-pound undersized middle infielder and returned in 2017, his junior year, a 6’3”, 195-pound athlete. That year, he hit .308/.439/.371 in 28 games for the Holy Cross Knights, getting the attention of major league scouts. He was even better in his senior year, hitting .286/.511/.476 in 24 games this past season. With their twenty-second selection in the 2018 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Palmer, signing him for $200,000. The 17-year-old was assigned to the GCL Mets for the remainder of the 2018 season and hit .310/.394/.414 in 25 games, slugging a lone home run and stealing five bases. He was promoted to the Kingsport Mets for the 2019 season, and as the fourth-youngest hitters in the Appalachian League hit .260/.344/.413 in 62 games, launching seven homers and stealing one base. While it was an excellent season by most metrics, he struck out at an alarming rate, whiffing 39.1% of the time.
The tall, leggy Palmer holds his hands high, swinging with a big leg kick. His swing is smooth and flows well, but because of the length and loft in it, he is currently susceptible to swinging over pitches and striking out. His bat speed is above average, allowing him to stay back on pitches and swing at the last moment. The speed of his bat gives him a bit of pop, and with future physical growth, Palmer should add to that as well.
Palmer has good range in the infield and a strong, accurate arm, giving him the ability to play shortstop and third base, position he handled with equal ability in 2019. Thanks to his above-average speed and overall athleticism, if his body continues growing and he loses some of his quick twitch muscle and agility, he has all of the tools needed to hunt down fly balls in the outfield. Though he has no real experience there, Palmer is an extremely hard worker and would no doubt pick up the position with ease.
Palmer was a sleeper of mine last season, and he hit the ground running, posting the second-highest OPS on the Kingsport Mets as the second-youngest hitter on the team. He showed a lot more power than I thought he would at this point thanks to a very uppercutty swing, but that lead to a ton of strikeouts. He might be able to destroy Rookie-level pitchers with that kind of strategy, but he’ll have to find a nice balance in order to continue progressing up the minor league ladder. While we all focus on the bat- and there is a lot to like there, no doubt- his defensive was a lot better than I think anybody realized. When Brett Baty was off, he filled in admirably at third, but playing shortstop majority of the time, he looked good. Third or possibly the outfield are his more likely homes years from now, but he looked perfectly fine at short. Didn’t have that explosive a first step, but everything else looked good.
Looking at the final top-25 for this season, I notice how similar Shervyen Newton’s 2018 and Jaylen Palmer’s 2019 were. That begs another question; why rate one 10 spots higher than the other? Were we too high on Newton, or too low on Palmer? Based on Newton’s 2019, the former seems more likely, but perhaps this is an overcorrection. Anyway, Palmer is a highly athletic third baseman who has already flashed good power, should develop into more, but also strikes out a ton. Maybe he’ll be able to control his contact issues better than his predecessor.
Palmer is an interesting prospect to evaluate at this point in time. He’s an excellent athlete who is currently more than capable of playing the infield defensively. There’s also a decent amount of power in there at present, as his seven Appalachian League homers and .153 ISO in 2019 can attest to, and there’s clearly potential for more as he gets older and stronger moving forward. There’s a lot to like with Palmer as a prospect, but there are also legitimate reasons for concern about his future outlook. Concerns about his ability to hit for average already exist, and Palmer will need to improve and find a way to cut his strikeouts down significantly in the future. Palmer struck out an eye-popping 108 times in 276 plate appearances in the Appalachian League in 2019, which amounted to almost 40% of his plate appearances. Palmer is still extremely raw offensively, but he’s also extremely young and inexperienced. There’s still plenty of time for it to come together for Palmer, and there’s definitely potential for him to develop into a pretty good big leaguer at some point down the line.
Palmer was a sleeper coming into the season, and even made out “Other Players of Note” section of our prospect list last year after dominating the Gulf Coast League. He continued to ball out in 2019, this time in Kingsport. His batting average dipped to .260, but his on-base percentage (.344) and his slugging percentage (.413) stayed similar, with the latter being almost identical to the season prior. He has been noted to be a strong defender, and with his speed it is likely he can also make a move to the outfield if that ends up being a necessity in the future. He has had two good offensive seasons under his belt, and in a system that is pretty bare, he is someone to note.