Image: David Monseur/Accent Images- MiLB When many think of the top infielders in the Cleveland system, names like Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio, Gabriel Arias, or Aaron Bracho are often the […]
Image: David Monseur/Accent Images- MiLB
When many think of the top infielders in the Cleveland system, names like Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio, Gabriel Arias, or Aaron Bracho are often the first that come to mind. But a name that has been rising up the prospect rankings and has started fantastically in 2021 is Richard Palacios.
‘Richie’, as he is more commonly called, was the Indians’ third-round selection back in 2018 out of Towson University, where he was a 2018 2nd Team ABCA/Rawlings All-East Region selection and was 2nd team All-CAA.
Palacios was highly regarded by many after his selection in the draft, as he debuted at 20th in MLB.com’s Top 30 prospects rankings of the Indians organization. Unfortunately for Palacios, a torn labrum stole his 2019 season, and then the COVID-19 pandemic took away everyone’s 2020 season. After almost two years, it seemed like the Towson alumni had been forgotten as a new influx of talent flooded the Cleveland system. But he never stopped working, even with the torn labrum affecting his throwing arm and his swing path on his road to recovery.
“The injury [started] in the offseason going into the 2019 season when I started getting shoulder discomfort and it kept getting worse and we tried rehabbing it. Then we found out my labrum was torn so I had to get surgery in March of 2019. I was able to get through that, and the trainers helped me a lot. The Indians and my agent were all [were very helpful],” the former third-round pick said, “Throwing took the longest [to get to 100%] because of the progression to getting back to throwing seven days a week. Hitting wasn’t as bad, wasn’t as tough… getting through the pain of throwing was the toughest thing. It took a little longer than I thought, but I got all of 2020 to get a little bit more rest so it helped me out for sure.”
After recovering from the injury, Palacios was able to stay active throughout the pandemic but had to avoid going back home to New York City, where the pandemic was at its most dangerous. The pandemic was somewhat helpful though, as the infielder was able to fully recover from his injury with the extra year without play.
“I had to sacrifice from going home [in March of 2020] because New York was the worst during the pandemic. I chose to stay out in Arizona where things were a little more lenient and I was able to at least practice and do my routine,” the RubberDuck infielder said, “For me coming back from my injury, the thing I needed most was live at-bats. I was able to get that with a ton of pro players in Arizona and going to Bauer’s thing in the desert. All that was great for me because I was able to see live pitching again and made my transition for this year a lot easier, so I wouldn’t go 2 ½ years without seeing live [pitching]. It was great for me to be out there and help me get ready for this season.”
It’s no surprise that Palacios is as talented as he is at baseball, as his lineage is as strong as any players. His father, also named Richard, reached Triple-A with the Detroit Tigers, his uncle Rey, played for the Kansas City Royals, and his older brother Josh is currently on the Toronto Blue Jays’ 40-man roster. The left-handed hitter says that every one of his family members has played a big influence on his life.
“I grew up with a ball and glove in hand and my family has always been around baseball. They got me to enjoy the game first, and when I found that love they were able to then show me things that I would need to do to get where I wanted to be,” the Berkely Carroll High School graduate said, “It was easy steps knowing that my father and uncle made it, so I knew exactly what it was going to take. I still listen to them to this day and they still tell me what I am doing wrong, but I’m happy to just have those people there to set the stones for me in my career.”
With his older brother Josh now getting his first cup of coffee in the majors, as he appeared for ten games with Toronto before being sent back down to Triple-A, the Towson product has gotten even more motivation to catch up to his bigger sibling.
“He helps me so much. [We have] a great relationship, just loving on each other when we are down and praising each other when we are up. He’s been great for my career. He has always been one step ahead of where I wanted to be, and it was great to have him showing me the things that I needed to do and the mentality I need to have in order to be successful,” Palacios said, “Even though when I was younger, I hated listening to him, now, knowing that he is gonna give me some good tips, I just stick with it and go with it.”
The Brooklyn native also talked about his time getting back to New York at the end of the pandemic as well, training for the 2021 season with Coach Jason Ferber, a New York City native who has amassed a following of 140,000 on Instagram with his videos of baseball training that pass that are entertaining and insightful. Palacios enjoys working with Coach Ferber, who works with high school, college, and professional players alike, and the unique training regimen he brings to those guys.
“Coach Ferber is great. He just comes in and brings a good environment to his training, whether it’s college or pro guys. We just focus on competing because sometimes in the offseason you can lack that when you are just training every day, and it gets monotonous. With Ferber, he brings a good environment, competing against each other, enjoying it, and making the game fun,” the Towson alum said, “He knows a lot, he has a lot of knowledge, and he has helped me [with hitting]. He has also helped me a lot in just keeping it light, keeping it fun, competing against your brother, your teammates, and your boys from back home, and translating that into the next season.”
This season, the hard work he has put in has shown in not just his bat, but in his versatility. The 5’10” infielder has also seen time in the outfield this spring, and as of June 11th, has started 10 games in the outfield (6 starts in CF, 3 starts in LF, & 1 start in RF). Palacios said that he had experienced time in the outfield during summer ball back in college and that he had known for a while that this transition was imminent. However, making sure he was healthy was the first step before making that move.
“I’ve been very comfortable out there [in the outfield]. I played there back in a college league and I’ve been feeling very comfortable. I knew eventually that I was gonna be able to play multiple positions, it was just mostly getting my shoulder back to 100% before exploring other positions,” the versatile RubberDuck said, “I’m honestly completely fine with [the transition] because I know versatility is gonna help me make that 26-man roster someday. [The Indians organization] has brought it up to me before, but we were just trying to make sure that I was completely healthy before I started jumping around. Once that was good, we were good to go.”
As the vibrant, young prospect continues his ascent up the prospect rankings once again, he is looking to continue what he is doing at the Double-A level, being consistent and versatile.
“I think it’s just continuing what I am doing now. Continuing to be consistent is the key, to be in the major leagues. I just gotta keep developing every day, not trying to change anything, but developing myself as a player, as a person, and being able to be as consistent as possible. I feel like that will bring me right to the major leagues where I’m having success there.”
The Richie Palacios Profile
DOB: 5/16/1997 (24)
Draft: 2018 June Amateur Draft – Round 3, Pick: 25, Overall: 103 (Signing bonus $475,000)
Bats: L; Throws: R
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY – Berkely Carroll High School
College: Towson University
Career if not in baseball: “I’d like to think basketball… but I’d say social media influencer.”
Favorite Shoe: Yeezy (Grey and white colorway)
Favorite Music: Hip hop
Favorite Food: Dad’s Lasagna
Favorite TV Show and Movie: Power and Four Brothers
Favorite MLB Player: Derek Jeter (former) and Tim Anderson (current)
Something fans might not know about Richie Palacios:
I’m a hustler. I’ve grinded for everything I have gotten now, and I will continue to grind to get whatever I get in the future. [Fans] may not know my backstory but [they’ll know] I worked my tail off to get to where I am, and I am gonna continue to do that to be successful.”Tweet
The RubberDucks utility man has been a mainstay at the top of the Akron order so far this season, as he is hitting .307 with a .857 OPS. He may have just had his best game of the season on June 9th, as he finished with four hits, three of which were doubles. He also drove in a run and scored three times. The left-handed hitter has impressively walked almost as much as he has struck out. He currently carries a walk rate over 14%, which is above average, and a strike-out rate of 18%, which is above average in the positive direction. With a strong plate discipline profile and a great hit tool, success is very likely to be in this young man’s future.
Palacios will likely continue to ascend in the Cleveland prospect rankings, as he continues to work on his versatility and finds consistency in his game as a hitter. He likely projects as a high-end utility man, like a Ben Zobrist type, or possibly as an everyday player at second base, with the ability to cover for others in the outfield in a pinch. Either way, do not be surprised to see the big smile and infectious personality of this young player in a big-league park in the near future.