Flamethrowing Righty Daniel Palencia Dazzles in AAA Debut

As noted here recently, righty pitching prospect Daniel Palencia was recently given a surprising promotion to Triple-A Iowa not even two weeks after he was placed on the development list. Palencia, who was acquired in the 2021 Andrew Chafin trade, had worked almost exclusively as a starter in parts of three minor league seasons but has now been converted to a relief role. All signs point toward the Cubs wanting to expedite his matriculation to Chicago and his first outing made that look like a very real possibility.

This was actually Palencia’s second career relief appearance, the first of which came back on July 4 last year with South Bend, but that was more of a piggyback deal. Thursday evening saw him operating in a more traditional sense, with one inning of work in the I-Cubs’ 12-5 thrashing of Nashville. Palencia pitched the 6th inning of the Hayden Wesneski start, striking out two and getting a lineout to maneuver around a leadoff walk.

Capable of touching triple digits, Palencia sat 99 mph with the fastball and also features a slider that lives in the low 90s while touching 94. He has the stuff to close at the next level, it’s just a matter of harnessing it. That’s why the Cubs were so aggressive in moving him to the bullpen and then bumping him to Iowa.

His outings were pretty abbreviated for a starter, even one at the lower professional levels, so this was always a possibility. After some initial struggles at Double-A Tenessee, the organization knew it made sense to convert him and hasten his development. The Cubs now have several young arms at Iowa that could be up in Chicago to help either the arm barn or rotation at some point.

That includes lefty Bailey Horn, who secured the win on Thursday with a scoreless inning and now has a 1.93 ERA across 18.1 innings at Double- and Triple-A. And these guys aren’t even close to the club’s most heralded prospects, though Palencia does sit at No. 13 on MLB Pipeline’s most recent top 30 rankings. With a 40-man decision looming this offseason, I would not be surprised at all to see him getting the nod at some point this summer.

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