Daniel Palencia – Picture by Todd Johnson

Somewhere, there’s an episode five of the mailbag coming out and it’s just about ready. So, while we wait for that to arrive, I thought I would fly solo today and tackle a question about Daniel Palencia from Pete. 

pete@Red78419215 How well do you figure Palencia would need to do in TNS next year to continue to avoid getting kicked to the pen?

The number one thing to remember about Daniel Palencia is that he has only played professional baseball for two seasons.

For most starting pitchers, that is not a very long time. He was signed by the A’s in 2020 after just turning 20-years-old. That’s a little late for a guy to be signing but it is not uncommon much anymore. He did not debut until mid year of 2021 and he did so with the low Class A Stockton Ports. He saw action in six games and only pitched 14.1 innings between June and July of 2021 before being traded to the Cubs. When he came over in the Andrew Chafin deal, he saw action in seven games in Myrtle Beach and pitched just 27 innings. That’s a whopping total of 41 innings in his first professional year.

As you can see, the Cubs have been taking their time stretching Palencia out. At South Bend in 2022, he got in 75 frames but the Cubs pretty much held him back the first two months of the year only letting him go three or four innings a start. It wasn’t until June 16 that he saw the fifth inning. In July, he pitched in three games and then missed a couple starts due to an ankle injury before coming back in August where they held him down to three or four innings again. In total, he only pitched five innings twice all year.

All this means is that the Cubs are building up that arm slowly. And in doing so, they hope to maintain the strength that he already has. There does not seem to be any indication that he will find his way to the bullpen any time soon. Rather, it’s just been a slow process building that arm up to withstand 100-120 innings in 2023 as a starter. In other words, the Cubs are saving his “bullets” for Chicago.

We’ve all seen the videos of him throwing gas in the upper 90s and low 100s. What you don’t see is a workout regimen that’s designed to keep that arm at that level.

When Palencia begins warming up, he does a few short tosses and some stretching and eventually starts throwing long toss to catcher Pablo Aliendo in one of the corners of the outfield. Over the course of 10 minutes, Palencia begins working backwards. He makes it all the way out to deep centerfield and then he continues to find his way to the opposite corner. It is quite the thing to behold as he’s throwing from corner to corner. While Pablo Aliendo has a great arm as a catcher, Pablo needed a cut off man to throw it back to Palencia most days.

So to answer your question about staying a starter, there’s really not much for him to do other than to throw 100 to 120 innings at Tennessee. He probably could have any ERA under four and strikeout a batter per inning, maybe two.

How he gets to those 100-120 innings is really going to be up to the Cubs. They could start him off with a pitch count of 80 pitches per game. They could just set an inning limit at four in the month of April and then increase it to five in May, After that, the Cubs could let him loose the last three months. Those are some options. Unless there’s a complete meltdown by him as a starter, which Is highly unlikely, he’s going to remain a starter for the time being and the foreseeable future. 

Based upon how long it takes for him to warm up, coming out of the pen might not be an option for quite a while. He would have to get ready for a game in a whole new way.

Palencia will be 23 win the 2023 season starts and he’s going to be joining a loaded Tennessee Smokies’ rotation that contains some of the Cubs best starting pitching talent. He’s going to be one of them and we’ll see just how well his stuff will plays at that level as a starter.

All pics of Daniel Palencia by Todd Johnson