POSITION: Left-handed pitcher
BORN ON: July 21, 1987
AGE: Turns 21 this July
BORN IN: Huntington Beach, California
LIVES IN: Huntington Beach, California
WEIGHT: 230 pounds
SCHOOL: Golden West Community College in California
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 10th round of the 2007 draft
SIGNED BY: Tom Battista
STATISTICSClick here for Palica's 2007 stats
SCOUTING REPORTPalica (pronounced pa-lee-ca) was drafted by the Yankees in the 32nd round of the 2006 draft, but he returned to Golden West Community College in California for his sophomore campaign. His impressive season (7-1, 3.05, 91 hits allowed in 115 innings, 34 walks, 146 strikeouts) got him noticed by the Braves, who believed he was the best JUCO pitcher in California and selected him in the 10th round last June.
Atlanta sent him to Danville, where a crowded rotation pushed Palica to mostly the back end of piggyback starts. For the two times he did start, Palica struggled (9.00 ERA in nine innings). But since he had pitched a good deal in JUCO the Braves were careful with Palica, so he pitched more than three innings only three times out of twelve games pitched.
Palica has a herky-jerky motion, almost like former Braves' prospect Will Startup. Palica doesn't have as high a leg kick, but the ball gets in on the hitters very quickly. Palica works fast, so fast that a number of hitters in the Appy League had to step out to slow him down a bit. He goes right at guys and is very sneaky with his mechanics, which makes it difficult for some hitters to pick him up.
As far as his stuff, Palica's fastball is in the 87-90 mph range and can touch 91. He's got a curveball, changeup, and a splitter. The curve is pretty decent, and the Braves let him occasionally throw the split-finger, which is something they don't always allow for a young pitcher. Palica has an idea of where to throw all of his pitches. He doesn't overpower anyway, so he's a typical lefty that is as close to a pitcher as you'll get.
Palica's aggressiveness is very impressive. His father and grandfather played in pro ball so this kid has an idea of what the game is all about. In the past he's been compared to Mark Buerhle, but it might be more fair to make a clearer comparison after Palica's first full minor league season.
2008 OUTLOOKPalica is a big, strong lefty with decent stuff. The Braves feel Palica has good pitchability and is versatile enough to be a starter or a reliever. It might be hard for him to get innings as a starter, and some even believe Palica could be a reliever in Myrtle Beach to start the 2008 season. But he'll be in competition for a rotation spot in Rome, and if he has a solid spring training Palica will have a chance. That's his preference, so he'll have to prove he's better than a reliever in March. He'll be an interesting kid to watch in 2008.
ADDITIONAL STORY LINKSScout.com Interview with Palica in June of 2006
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.