Well Chicago Cubs fans, there might be some hope after all this season. Daniel Palencia made his MLB debut on Tuesday, and appeared again on Thursday, electrifying the crowd with his upper 90s mph fastball, reaching as high as 100.8 mph in the loss to Milwaukee. Palencia worked two shutout innings to earn a win in his debut, allowing just one hit and remarkably struck out zero batters. Still, Palencia is a sight for sore eyes in the Cubs’ bullpen, a group that has thoroughly disappointed to the tune of an 8-20 record and 4.06 ERA. Michael Fulmer, a reliable veteran, has regressed a tad, pitching to a 4.50 ERA in 38 appearances.
What Chicago Cubs fans can expect from Daniel Palencia
Palencia was acquired from Oakland in the Andrew Chafin deal, a hard-throwing lottery ticket with spotty command. While the command has not materialized, a shift to the bullpen may not require any command overhauls. In 145.2 career minor league innings, Palencia has walked 75, a little more than one every other inning. Thankfully, these shorter bursts should allow Palencia’s electric fastball to play better. On Thursday, none of Palencia’s fastball were under 98 mph.
FanGraphs’ lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen was so enticed by Palencia’s fastball that he put a 70-grade (20-80 scale) on it this spring. Coupled with a slider that presents as a plus pitch, Palencia presents as a potentially lethal bullpen weapon. Eno Sarris’ Stuff+ model also shares love for Palencia, with his fastball checking in with a 141 grade and his slider grading at 157. Overall, Palencia’s Stuff+ grade is an impressive 147, while is Location+ is nearly average at 88.
With a 40-46 record at time of publication, the Chicago Cubs sure looks like sellers come the MLB trade deadline. With Fulmer a likely candidate to leave town, and no clear closer, management might be willing to give Palencia an extended look. At worst, Palencia is an electric addition to future bullpens, earning valuable experience in an uncompetitive season.