A Conversation With Cleveland Guardians Prospect Richie Palacios

© Fred Squillante/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Richie Palacios barely missed a beat when he returned to action last year. Sidelined for two seasons due to a torn labrum followed by a minor-league summer that never happened, the 24-year-old Brooklyn-born infielder/outfielder came back to slash .297/.404/.471 over 428 plate appearances between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. His wRC+ was a healthy 141.

Palacios had gotten off to a strong start after being taken by Cleveland in the third round of the 2018 draft out of Towson University. Playing at the lower rungs of the minors, he batted .361 with a .960 OPS in his 45-game introduction to pro ball. He arrived with baseball bloodlines. His older brother, Josh Palacios, made his major league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays last year and is now with the Washington Nationals, while their uncle, Rey Palacios, played for the Kansas City Royals from 1988-90.

Richie Palacios — No. 32 our newly-released Cleveland Guardians Top Prospect list — discussed his post-injury learning curve, and his “Let The Kids Play” approach to the game he grew up with, during a November stint in the Arizona Fall League.


David Laurila: You came back strong after missing two full seasons. I believe you had suffered a labrum injury?

Richie Palacios: “Yes. I got hurt in 2019 and had surgery in March of that year. It put me out for the season, and then there was obviously COVID, so we missed the 2020 season as well. At first I thought that would be detrimental to my career, but in reality, the time to train and get stronger — to get better — actually helped propel me in my career.”

Laurila: How did you sustain the injury?

Palacios: “Just swinging. I was taking a couple of swings, and my shoulder … the ball in the socket kind of slid out. It was a little bit of a freak accident. There had definitely been wear-and-tear, though, just from swinging so much and throwing so much. You know how baseball is. Anyway, they said I could play through it if it didn’t hurt, but it hurt a lot. We thought surgery was the best option.”

Laurila: Can you say a little more about how you were able to improve while not playing?

Palacios: “Baseball is a tough sport, and you think you can only learn and get better by playing the actual game, but when you lock in on things outside of just the game — again, getting stronger and faster, watching a lot of video — you can gain a lot. That’s what I feel like I did.”

Laurila: You already knew the game well. You come from a real baseball family.

Palacios: “I grew up around the game, but when I got to pro ball, I was learning a lot more than I had in the past. My parents have obviously taught me so much — and my uncle and my brother — but here you’re learning a lot of advanced things. When you put those together and add them to your game, you learn how much you can still develop. And it’s not just physical. It’s probably more mental.”

Laurila: Can you give any examples?

Palacios: “It’s a lot of small things that give you a slight advantage. There really aren’t any big adjustments when you’re in professional baseball. If you can learn one little thing every day, it can give you an advantage on the field.”

Laurila: That said, have you made any physical adjustments?

Palacios: “I’ve been learning some things in my swing to give me more power, like using my hips and being more efficient. I feel like that has helped me gain power compared to what I’ve shown in previous seasons. That said, my game is to hit line drives all over the field. It’s about single, doubles, extra base hits… it’s not needing to hit homers, per se. I’m just allowing those to come when they come. I know who I am as a player.”

Laurila: What about defensively? Do you see yourself as a second baseman, or as more of an outfielder?

Palacios: “I’m a utility guy. I can play all positions, so wherever the team needs me is where I’ll be.”

Laurila: Changing direction, what did you study at Towson?

Palacios: “I studied marketing. I’ve always liked social media. I’ve always liked being able to market people, market things, market yourself. That’s something I got into, and I still use it today — building the brand of myself as a baseball player, both on and off the field.”

Laurila: What image are you striving for?

Palacios: “I like to be the guy that has fun. When I’m on the field, whether
it’s jumping and screaming after a double late in the game, or whether it’s cheering the guys on, I like showing a little emotion. Fun is what this game is all about. I love that whole ‘Let The Kids Play’ [slogan]. I want the little kids watching us to see that we’re having a great time, and have them wanting to do the same thing.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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