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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Ten

What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, June 14th to June 19th?

Daniel Palka
Steve Sypa

Daniel Palka

Week: 6 G, 25 AB, .440/.500/.840, 11 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 5 K, 0/0 SB (Triple-A)

2022 Season: 58 G, 211 AB, .265/.354/.531, 56 H, 11 2B, 0 3B, 15 HR, 29 BB, 60 K, 0/1 SB, .302 BABIP (Triple-A)

With 15 home runs, Daniel Palka is tied for second in the category in the International League, along with St. Louis’ Nolan Gorman and Washington’s Joey Menses. Since his college days, Palka has been known for his power and in the years since, it has remained his carrying tool. Over the course of his twelve year career, which has spanned 1368 games played around the globe, he is a .266/.346/.491 hitter, with 266 home runs to his credit. In 2018, when he was called up by the Chicago White Sox and ended up coming in fifth place in American League Rookie of the Year voting, he hit .240/.294/.484 and slugged 27 home runs. He was ranked fourth that year in Maximum Exit Velocity (118.4 MPH), and sixteenth in Average Exit Velocity (92.3) and Hard Hit Percentage (48.9).

Unfortunately for Palka, it takes much more than a single tool to swim in the major leagues, let alone thrive. With a high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and platoon splits against fellow left-handers, he struggled following his breakout 2018 season, losing playing time and eventually losing a major league roster spot.

A left-handed power hitter who is limited to either first base or a corner outfield spot, Palka is somewhat redundant on the Mets roster as currently constructed. He would need to be added to the team’s 40-man roster, which puts him at a disadvantage when compared to Dom Smith, a similar player. While his bat might be more potent in a vacuum than those of Khalil Lee, Nick Plummer, and Travis Jankowski, all three have more defensive value.

Maybe he would have more luck as a professional sports figure if he hung up the cleats and started working on his free throws.

Alex Valverde

Week: 1 G (1 GS), 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K (Double-A)

Season: 12 G (9 GS), 49.0 IP, 57 H, 33 R, 32 ER (5.88 ERA), 16 BB, 70 K, .387 BABIP (Double-A)

A Miami-area native who graduated from Florida baseball powerhouse Gulliver Prep, Alex Valderde went undrafted in the 2015 MLB Draft and went on to attend Miami Dade College. He only spent a single season pitching for the Sharks, his sophomore year, but it was an excellent season: in 85.0 innings, he posted a 1.80 ERA with 92 strikeouts. During the 2017 FCSAA Baseball State Tournament, the right-hander was named to the All-Southern Conference First Team and the FCSAA All-Tournament Team. He signed a letter of intent to pitch for the University of Alabama in 2018, but ended up never actually attending, as he was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 22nd round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the 649th player selected overall. Tampa signed the right-hander for $272,500, a princely sum for a player selected in the 22nd round, and immediately made his presence known, helping lead the Hudson Valley Renegades to a 2017 New York-Penn League championship, posting a 1.93 ERA for them in 14.0 innings after posting solid numbers for the GCL Rays.

Valverde spent the entire 2018 season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods but his performance took a major step back against Low-A hitters. In 108.2 innings, he posted a 4.56 ERA, allowing 120 hits, walking 57, and striking out 79. In 2019, he was promoted to the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs and was used mainly as a reliever, but the change in scenery and role did not particularly improve his performance: in 65.0 innings, he posted a 4.29 ERA, allowing 63 hits, walking 22, and striking out 65. After missing the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was promoted to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits in 2021 and used as a swingman posted a 4.88 ERA in 72.0 innings, allowing 69 hits, walking 29, and striking out 92. That winter, he was selected by the Mets in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

The right-hander throws from a low-three-quarters, almost side-arm arm slot. He drops his body low when pushing off the mound, lowering his release point even further. His fastball sits in the low-90s, and is complemented by a mid-to-high-70s curveball and a low-80s changeup.

Players of the Week 2022

Week One (April 5-April 17): Francisco Alvarez/Jose Butto
Week Two (April 19-April 24): Daniel Palka/Keyshawn Askew
Week Three (April 26-May 1): Shervyen Newton/Alec Kisena
Week Four (May 3-May 8): Alex Ramirez/David Peterson
Week Five: (May 10-May 15): Brett Baty/Jose Chacin
Week Six: (May 17-May 22): Jaylen Palmer/Mike Vasil
Week Seven (May 24th-May 29th): Francisco Alvarez/Connor Grey
Week Eight (May 31-June 5th): Khalil Lee/Jose Butto
Week Nine (June 7-June 12): Stanley Consuegra/Nick Zwack