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Josh Palacios Enjoys 'Risk-Free Year'



Outfielder Josh Palacios found freedom in his work at the Blue Jays’ alternate training site over the summer. That work at Rochester, N.Y., in turn helped him find a spot on the 40-man roster.

“The time at the alternate site was a real blessing,” the 25-year-old Palacios said. “I was able to touch on all three parts of my game. I worked with the hitting (coordinator) Hunter Mense a lot, and we were able to get me a little more smooth in my swing, (get) some more contact going to the opposite side of the field.

"I worked heavily with Devon White in the outfield. He’s a Gold Glover and he was able to open my mind to routes to the wall, being able to take my head off the ball and look in different directions, being more comfortable."

Palacios also worked on his stolen base technique with White.

"It was like a risk-free year," said Palacios, Toronto's fourth-round pick out of Auburn in 2016, "where I could do whatever I wanted with no risk and no fear of failure, and really just to try out the things I was never able to try during the season.”

Those gains cemented his place in the Blue Jays’ near-term future, making him one of five additions to the 40-man roster in November.

As a lefthanded-hitting outfielder on a righthanded-heavy roster, Palacios was a logical add, especially with the club’s upper-level depth at the position relatively thin. He spent all of 2019 at Double-A New Hampshire and was ticketed for Triple-A Buffalo before the shutdown hit this spring.

Rather than settling into the monotony, Palacios relished the creative competitions the Blue Jays set up at the alternate site, such as games where points were rewarded for hitting a line drive to the opposite field, or advancing a runner with a ball to the right side.

If he was on the bubble for a spot on the 40 beforehand, he wasn’t afterwards.

“He absolutely deserves this opportunity,” Blue Jays farm director Gil Kim said. “Really, the alt site experience just solidified it for us.”

JAYS CHATTER

— The Blue Jays added four other players in addition to Palacios ahead of the Nov. 20 deadline to shield them from the Rule 5 draft. Also added were catchers Riley Adams and Gabriel Moreno, second baseman Otto Lopez and righthander Ty Tice. The Blue Jays opted to protect as many players as possible ahead of what could be an aggressive Rule 5 draft.

— The additions of Riley Adams and Gabriel Moreno left the Blue Jays with five catchers on the 40-man roster, all 25 or younger.

Otto Lopez was a somewhat surprising add given that he hasn’t played above low Class A, but Gil Kim said the Blue Jays believe strongly in his potential. “He's athletic, he's a high-contact bat, plus speed, defensive versatility to play up the middle in the infield and the outfield as well,” he said. “Sure, he hasn't played above A-ball, but he also has a history of succeeding. And with those high-contact skills, we just feel like he's a guy who is going to continue to get better.”

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