White Sox Daniel Palka and Dan Pasqua: A Tale of Two Power Hitters
White Sox outfielder and designated hitter Daniel Palka has been a pleasant surprise thus far in an unpleasant season.
What might we expect from this talented White Sox hitter once Nicky Delmonico and Avisail Garcia return from injuries?
Does Palka mean power?
Daniel Palka hits the ball hard. James Fegan of The Athletic reported this week that his max exit velocity among players with at least 50 batted balls is 118.4, third in the Major Leagues. His total exit velocity on all batted balls is 94.4 is seventh, and his ranking rate of barrels per plate appearance is eighth. Palka is a boomer.
Similarities to Pasqua
He reminds me more than a little of Dan Pasqua, the outfielder who came over from the Yankees in the Richard Dotson trade and hit 117 home runs in his Major League career, 75 in a Sox uniform over 7 years from 1988-1994.
Palka looks like Pasqua but with a leg kick. Pasqua also had a bit of the stance Charlie Lau taught with his weight shifted to his back foot. Most people associate that stance with George Brett, but once the swing was underway it was all power – much like Palka.
On Pasqua – I sat in the front row behind home plate on April 17, 1991, the team’s 15th game in the new Comiskey Park and my first visit to the new stadium. That was the day when Pasqua went 4 for 5 with two home runs in a 14-9 win over Yankees. His second homer of the game was a colossal 484-foot blast off an Eric Plunk four-seamer that to this day is the hardest hit and longest home run I have ever witnessed.
Definition of a frozen rope
He hit that ball and it looked like it had been blasted out of a cannon. No kidding. It had no arc – it just went straight into the night until I lost sight of it. Once that happened I looked to the right-center field stands where it was heading, and to my amazement watched an entire outfield section follow the ball then in unison flip around with their backs facing home plate as the ball sailed over everyone’s heads to land at the base of the concourse behind them.
I remember the Chicago Sun-Times described the blast in their headline the next morning as a “mammoth home run”. The next time you’re in the stadium take a look out yonder toward right-center field and imagine what kind of blast would have been required to reach that distance. It was an absolute bomb, and Pasqua was quoted after the game saying he couldn’t hit a ball any harder than that.
Palka’s lucky chance
Palka has that power too along with a bit more athleticism, though I wouldn’t describe his movements in the field as ballet-like. He used that power to take advantage of a fantastic career opportunity. The injuries to Avisail Garcia and Nicky Delmonico opened the door to playing time and the opportunity to contribute to the team. And contribute he has, with 6 home runs and 17 extra base hits in 134 at-bats through Wednesday
The team has some interesting choices in the next several weeks as Garcia returns followed by Delmonico. Do they risk sending Palka back to Charlotte, or keep him at the Major League level with diminished playing time? Do they de-emphasize Delmonico’s playing time given all he was essentially doing was earning walks before his hand injury? Decisions, decisions.
What to do with the other youngsters
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A higher-level question I’m especially interested to learn is what does the team do with Palka, Delmonico, Garcia, Adam Engel, Charlie Tilson, etc. Once the youngsters Eloy Jiminez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, etc. begin to emerge at the major league level. Jiminez seems a certainty.
Having watched Robert, he is young and has a lot yet to learn but boy what ability. Given the team’s investment and his five-tool profile, he seems very likely. Adolfo, Blake Rutherford, possibly Nick Madrigal and others represent additional emergence at outfield positions that make it hard to imagine Daniel, Nicky, Avi, and Adam stick around. Will the team let them go or help them go?
Dream rebuild scenarios
I’m most interested in a rebuild scenario like this: We saw a glimpse of it when Carson Fulmer was demoted to Charlotte. As each additional player emerges on the scene, someone must give. What does that do the culture? “Ricky’s Boys”, as White Sox Marketing likes to refer to them, are tight. The current culture is around teaming. At some point, it must evolve to a culture of winning. And each component change will ever so slightly stiffen the resolve of these “boys” and transform them into men pursuing championships.
Next: Dylan Covey is a White Sox All-Star pitcher
Palka could well play himself into the long-term picture as he has the present one. And if that happens, it will represent a transformational indicator that the rebuild is prioritizing performance over potential. They’re not there yet but might be shortly, and Palka could well be the one to push the point.