Texas Rangers

Palumbo’s outing vs. Yankees showed why he might be Rangers’ best young left-hander

The bottom half of the Star-Telegram’s top 10 Texas Rangers prospects a year ago was filled with pitchers.

Tyler Phillips was No. 10. Jonathan Hernandez was No. 6. Both of them will be in the Rangers’ pitching plans in 2020.

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In between them were three left-handers.

Cole Ragans was No. 9 as he attempted to return from Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately for the 2016 first-rounder, he needed a second Tommy John earlier this year.

Sitting at No. 7 was Taylor Hearn, whose forgettable MLB debut in April was compounded by an elbow injury that kept him from pitching again in 2019.

Ragans and Hearn, like Phillips and Hernandez, have fallen out of the rankings this year.

The No. 8 prospect, though, held steady.

No. 8: Joe Palumbo, LHP

Age: 24 (Oct. 26, 1994)

Bats/throws: Left/left

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 168 pounds

How acquired: 30th round, 2013 draft

The Rangers are likely going to need one starting pitcher currently in the organization to fill out the 2020 starting rotation, and they could very well need two.

The front-runner would appear to be Kolby Allard, acquired July 30 for Chris Martin and shoe-horned into the rotation 10 days later. He made nine starts in all, impressing with his mound presence and competitiveness.

But the same can be said for fellow young left-handers Joe Palumbo and Brock Burke, who will be given the same chance as Allard to compete in spring training for a starting spot.

Palumbo let it be known after his final appearance this season that he’s going to be around in 2020. He said so, and showed on the mound why he has the chance to be a more dynamic pitcher than Allard and Burke.

“I will help this team win in the future,” Palumbo said. “I’m certain of that.”

Palumbo struck out seven New York Yankees in only three innings in his final appearance of the season. He used his fastball and curveball to rack up the Ks, but he also allowed three solo home runs.

Some of that was the lineup he was facing. Rumor has it the Yankees can hit.

Some of that was he wasn’t as sharp as he was earlier in the season in the minors after dealing with a blister. Some of that was his inexperience.

But there was a lot of good coming out of his left arm Sept. 27.

The arm in general was good all year. His shoulder and elbow, though, made it through 97 1/3 innings in his first full season after Tommy John surgery in 2017.

Command is the last thing to return to a pitcher after he has his ulnar collateral ligament replaced, so Palumbo should be sharper next season. But it’s not like he was wild in 2019, when he walked 43 hitters across three levels. He struck out 129.

The native New Yorker is on the rise, despite what his MLB numbers this season (9.18 ERA, 1.740 WHIP) show.

“His fastball has a lot of life on it,” manager Chris Woodward said. “One thing he’s not afraid to do it go in on righties and pitch up and in. It’s good for him to go into the off-season with that kind of outing [vs. New York] under his belt.”

Palumbo was scheduled to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but the blister on his thumb broke again. It shouldn’t be an issue by spring training, where a key roster competition will be waged.

Mike Minor and Lance Lynn will be top the rotation. The Rangers will target a right-hander to join them and possibly another to take on the right-handed-heavy lineups in the American League West.

Palumbo said that he should be able to add another 50 innings in 2020. Burke, who was shut down late with a shoulder impingement, also doesn’t foresee any issues carrying 150 innings.

Allard has been healthy throughout his career, and the Rangers should be able to count on him for a full slate of starts if he wins a rotation spot.

Palumbo, though, has the stuff to be the best of that bunch.

Top 10 Rangers prospects

No. 10: Sherten Apostel, 3B

No. 9: Nick Solak, 2B

No. 8: Joe Palumbo, LHP

No. 7: Monday

No. 6: Tuesday

No. 5: Wednesday

No. 4: Thursday

No. 3: Friday

No. 2: Oct. 21

No. 1: Oct. 22

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This story was originally published October 11, 2019 6:20 AM.

After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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