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Damiano Palmegiani's Power Could Lead Him To Next Level

Damiano Palmegiani
(Courtesy Damiano Palmegiani)

Damiano Palmegiani has always had quick hands.

The hands, the grip strength, and the forearms played into his bat speed and translated to raw power, but the 21-year-old Venezuelan-born, Canadian-raised third baseman has only just begun to be able to harness that power. Now, he’s among the nation’s leaders in home runs with 19 in 51 games for the College of Southern Nevada, and the power looks like it could be a tool that could carry Palmegiani to the next level.

“Maturity helped it develop,” Palmegiani said, running through a scouting report on himself using a form previously utilized by Major League Baseball’s scouting bureau. “Ever since I first started playing baseball, my hands were the first thing everybody noticed in my swing, like, ‘You have plus, plus bat speed.’ I’ve always had it there so even when I was younger, in high school, when I was lighter, 175 to 180, I still had a really quick bat that would develop a ton of power, for a kid who wouldn’t look like it. 

“But the issue was that I would try to create too much power and pull off, not let the barrel work in the zone for too long. Then the last two years I hammered down on simplifying and letting my swing play for itself. I’ve also ended up getting stronger and a little heavier, and that’s allowed my bat speed to really work. I realize that I don’t need to try too hard because when I get a pitch on the barrel with how quick my hands are, that’s going to generate the ball to fly off the bat.”

Though Palmegiani graded out his power as his best current tool, he bumped the future grades for his hit tool and his defense to match, with his sights set on vast improvements over time. The biggest jump he made from present to future was in the fielding category, an area he frequently gets knocked on for not having a set position but one he feels confident about getting significantly better in.

“The reason for that is I consider myself an athlete first above everything,” Palmegiani said. “So when I’m out there playing defense, I can do a lot of really athletic things. I’ve made a couple plays this year, diving down the line and taking a ball full extension, getting up, throwing from the knees and stuff. It’s more athletic than routine defensive stuff. So the older I get, the more that’s going to carry, and the more reps I take and experience I get at a set position, the routine plays are going to become easier and easier. Mix that in with the athleticism, I have a lot of belief in what I can do defensively.”

Addressing the positional criticism, Palmegiani hopes his versatility can be deciphered to be an asset, but he understands the conversations that follow him.

“I’ve moved around a little bit; I’ve played third, short, second, even a little bit of first every now and then, and the outfield,” he said. “A lot of people see the athleticism and see me move around and automatically want to say outfield. Then they’ll see I can take ground balls too and they think I might stick here, but if I play third I have to hit this many homers, and if not they might want to move me to second. So that’s why there’s that conversation.

“I’m confident in pretty much every position. Ideally I’d like to stay at third, that’s where my game plays the most, with the athleticism and what I can do with the bat. This year is a big one for me to prove that, not just statistically but I want scouts when they show up to see a natural third baseman playing third rather than an athlete who can move into the corner outfield in the future. But I’m not stubborn about it. I know my athleticism plays and if I’m hitting, it doesn’t matter all that much where I’m contributing on the field. I just want to do a good job at it.”

This year, Palmegiani has primarily played the hot corner for the Coyotes, a spot where he envisions himself long term.

“That’s where I have the most experience throughout my playing career and that’s probably where I’m the most comfortable because of the experience,” the No. 392-ranked draft prospect said. “But I take reps at practice everywhere—shortstop, second base—so if our guys go down with injuries, I’m more than comfortable and able to move over and play some short or second. But third base is where I feel I have the most to give.”

Palmegiani jumped his hit tool two grades from present to future, believing there’s just a lot more in the tank. Through 51 games at Southern Nevada, he’s posted a .396/.533/.862 slash line with 13 doubles, two triples and 13 stolen bases to go along with his 62 RBIs and the long balls.

“I’m just getting started now, which is what really excites me,” Palmegiani said. “I’ve figured out a few little things that have really turned me around. Now I’m really figuring out how to stay consistent, seeing as much high-level pitching as I can, and I’m going to keep building up what I can do right now but also learning the game and anticipating different things that will make me better and better. There’s a ton left to learn and I know I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m definitely on the right track.”

Last year amid baseball’s shutdown, Palmegiani hadn’t yet found a home for the upcoming season. Back at home in Surrey, British Columbia, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound righthanded hitter would spend every day at a batting cage near his house, taking time to clear his head and his approach.

“If it wasn’t for that time, I wouldn’t have the clarity and focus I do this year,” he said. “It sucked, but made me realize how much I love the game … I absolutely love hitting in the cages, getting extra work, all that stuff. Not only do I do it to get better but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be in the world than in a cage with a pitching machine.

“When there’s a pitch that is tough for me, like maybe low and away, I crank up the machine, get it on low and away, and go at it for an hour or two until I feel like I’m fully confident and capable of getting it. I like when I notice there’s something I can’t hit because that gives me something to do for the next few hours.”

Among the numbers Palmegiani is putting up for the Coyotes, there are a couple that stand out amid the rest for the slugger.

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“Definitely that my walks and hit by pitches are more than strikeouts,” he said, with 27 strikeouts, 28 walks and having been hit by 21 pitches so far this year. “Those are the only numbers I look at. I don’t really know my stats but my dad does look at them so I ask him to let me know my number of walks and strikeouts because I want the walks to be higher.”

He also doesn’t mind the bruises if they give him another chance to be on the basepaths.

“I don’t even really crowd the plate,” Palmegiani said. “I get in there but I don’t crowd the plate; I’m not trying to get hit. But I know exactly what the pitchers are trying to do, just in, soft in, in, and I think most of them have been curveballs that have gotten away from them and have hit me in the back. I’ll take it … I’ve had a lot of bruises. I’ll get out of the shower one day and think where is that from? And I’ll have three different seam marks on me somewhere, and I realize those are from the four hit by pitches I had this weekend.”

As the end of the season approaches and the draft draws nearer, Palmegiani is excited to continue battling it out on the field with his teammates while hoping to extend his playing time beyond the collegiate ranks this summer.

“I’m definitely excited for the draft,” Palmegiani said. “That’s my personal goal and I feel like I’m ready, with my ability and maturity, to hop into professional baseball. I know what it takes, and I know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it’s a bit of a grind, but that’s what I want so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hoping I can prove everything I can do to get that opportunity.”

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