What about Daniel Palka?
One of the biggest surprises for the rebuilding White Sox is Daniel Palka. He mashes, smashes, crashes, crushes, and launches seemingly everything he hits. “DP” looks like the type of guy who strikes fear in opposing pitchers and corner infielders. Fans need to be ready each time he steps to the plate, and even more excited each time he uncorks a powerful swing. Daniel Palka’s offensive upside is tantalizing. His limitations on both sides of the ball, however, are significant. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be a clear place for him on the roster moving forward.
Palka’s emergence is both good and bad news, as he is fun to watch and is controllable in the long-term. It never hurts to have depth and a plethora of options. On the other hand, he is a late-bloomer, and he is essentially a “one-trick pony.” Either way, the White Sox front office has an unexpected, potentially difficult question to answer in the near future: what about Daniel Palka?
Why Palka should stay.
The simplest reason for Daniel Palka to continue his career with the Chicago White Sox is what I hope will be on display in the Bronx over the next few days. Daniel Palka can rake. He hits the ball with authority. His maximum exit velocity of 118.4 MPH places him 4th in MLB, behind three “Baby Bombers” in Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge. These are professional mashers, and Palka is right there with them. Average home run distance places him a bit further down the leaderboards, but only seven feet behind the leader, Carlos Gonzalez (maybe some Coors Field help).
Palka’s platoon splits are not terribly drastic, either, and he has a higher OBP against left-handers than he does against righties. The potential is there for him to be in the lineup every single day. His power is much less significant against lefties, albeit in a much smaller sample size. Whether a position player or a DH, simply getting on base can be just as important as sending baseballs into orbit.
Why Palka doesn’t fit.
Daniel Palka owns a career 1.000 fielding percentage and has chipped in two outfield assists. In forty-seven games, that’s not so bad. However, he can’t play center, which takes away some immediate value. According to Fangraphs, he has -9 DRS on the year in right field. In a much smaller sample in left, he also has -1 DRS. That’s, well, that’s not good. First base might be open if Jose Abreu is traded. The injured, but still much hyped Jake Burger will potentially take time at one or both infield corners in the future. Matt Davidson is not a terribly strong defender, but he has a better track record defensively than Daniel Palka. With Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Charlie Tilson, Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo, and others vying for future outfield time, it’s not likely to happen.
Unfortunately for Palka, first base/DH types are nowhere near as in demand as they were even a few years ago, outside of guys with monster numbers. But, he’s a late bloomer, so who knows where his career trajectory is headed?
So, what should the front office do with Daniel Palka?
I think the last month of the season will tell the tale of Daniel Palka’s time on the south side. If his .282 OBP creeps north a bit, it potentially makes him a more viable DH option. Designated hitters need to get on base more often than that, even if they are certified souvenir pros.
While I mentioned earlier that his numbers against lefties aren’t bad, he still needs to have more sustained success against them. If he hits lefties and takes a few more walks, the White Sox will have to make room for him somewhere. However, if Palka sits right about where he is, the front office should probably pull the proverbial trigger and sell high this offseason.
The only thing I’m worried about is if Daniel Palka gets traded and ends up exploding in his late 20s post-trade, a la David Ortiz. Okay, I know the likelihood of a Big Papi-like career is insanely small, but Ortiz was a late bloomer, and the change of scenery coincided with the birth of his legend. Regardless of where Palka ends up, if he’s hitting like he has this year, I want to keep watching #PalkSmash.
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