Outfield prospect Josh Palacios found his swing last summer in an unexpected place — at the Blue Jays alternate Covid-19 training site in Rochester, New York.
The 2016 fourth-round pick was struggling mightily during 2020 spring training, totaling just two hits in 21 at bats while striking out seven times.
Fast forward to today – the 25-year-old has appeared in eight games for the Blue Jays this spring, batting .375 with a 1.224 on OPS to go along with six RBI’s.
Palacios attributes his career resurgence to the Blue Jays alternate training site, where a more “carefree” environment allows players to work on mechanics without the constant stress of failure.
Hunter Mense, minor league hitting coordinator for the Blue Jays, worked with the former Auburn Tigers fielder in Rochester, and believes the most important adjustment made was a return to the “toe-tap” timing that brought him collegiate success.
That style sees the hitter raise his lead foot and “tap” the dirt as an indicator for the rest of his swing.
“When he started doing it, it was almost like a flip of the switch where he started having immediate success, he stuck with it and to his credit, being able to stick with something like that can be challenging when you start hitting some low points,” said Mense.
“I’ve seen in some of his interviews where it’s kind of a ‘carefree environment.’ In carefree environments you can blindly go through the at bats and not be locked in, and he was very locked in for every single at bat.”
After countless reps in Rochester, the culmination of hard work came to a head last Friday against the Orioles when the Brooklyn native had three hits, and was a single shy of the cycle.
Palacios’ performance garnered significant media attention, but was of no surprise to Mense, who believes the prospect has been flying under the radar.
“And for all of us that had seen him just absolutely dominate in Rochester was like ‘Yeah that’s what he does, that’s who he is,’ and I think it’s going to get to the point now where he’s going to continue to do those things and its not going to be a surprise for anybody.”
The Blue Jays have an incredibly deep outfield with names like George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Loudres Gurriel Jr., and Randal Grichuck – so it may not be easy for Palacios to find consistent big league playing time.
However, the outfielder is expected to maintain his spot on the 40-man roster for opening day, and with some luck could make his Major League debut this year.