Giants Top 50: #34 - Matt Palmer

At 27, it's hard to make an impression as a prospect, especially when starting the third straight year at Double-A. But there are ways, mostly by just being very good. One such 27 year old finally broke out of the Eastern League. But does he have a chance at becoming a major leaguer?

Date of Birth: 03/21/1979 Position: P Height: 6'2" Weight: 224 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 31st Round (#937 Overall) of the 2002 Draft
2006 Stats
Connecticut - AA 5 3 1.30 15 9 0 62.1 50 20 9 1 10 51 .216 2.00
Fresno - AAA 6 4 4.05 15 15 0 91.0 91 45 41 10 30 64 .265 1.83
Scottsdale - AFL 0 1 4.29 7 7 0 21.0 18 11 10 1 15 20 .231 0.71

Matt Palmer, 27, had started to become something of a mainstay in Connecticut, when he was asked to do a very difficult task.

He had to replace Jonathan Sanchez in the rotation.

Sanchez, one of the Giants higher ranked prospects, made three starts and had a 0.55 ERA, but was quickly and unceremoniously moved to the bullpen, so Palmer was asked to step in.  Palmer had made only 7 starts in the previous three years.  Palmer had been one of the top relievers for the former Norwich Navigators, and had done pretty well, working as a part-time closer in 2004 and as a fulltime closer with 25 saves in Hagerstown in 2003.  But Palmer got derailed in 2005, missing both the start and the end of the year with arm problems.

How did the former closer respond to being moved into the rotation?

He simply posted the best first half rotation ERA in the Eastern League with a 1.30 ERA.

With that, Palmer finally earned a long-delayed promotion to Fresno, where he put up a respectable 4.05 ERA in a hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.  And he stayed healthy all year while pitching 153.1 innings after pitching just a few more innings than that in the previous three years combined.  (And that doesn't include 21 innings in the Arizona Fall League, where he wilted in the last two starts of the fall.)

Palmer doesn't throw with the best stuff.  He has no plus pitches, but mixes what he has well.  Where Palmer really improved his game in 2006 was in his control.  His walk rate, which had been 5.18 walks every 9 innings pitched, he dropped down to only 1.44 walks every 9 innings in 2006, and kept the rate under 3 walks per 9 innings in Fresno.

Palmer's future will depend on his ability to keep his walks down.  Whether he does or not, he may have to fight to find a role in 2007 Fresno.  There may be room in the rotation, but Palmer's best bet for the future might be in the bullpen.  With a San Francisco team that is looking for bullpen help but hasn't found it in the majors, The former closer and successful starter might provide some stability in a middle relief role if other young pitchers fail to bounce back from a terrible 2006.

Palmer isn't the sexiest name on a prospect list, and his ceiling isn't very high, but the unheralded pitcher may yet make the majors and help out the team in an unheralded way.

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