It didn’t get much attention squeezed between the news Monday that Byung-ho Park may be coming to Minnesota and Wednesday’s trade of Aaron Hicks to the Yankees, but the Twins are pleased with the deal they struck with Arizona on Tuesday.
Chris Herrmann, Kurt Suzuki’s chief understudy the past two seasons, was swapped to the Diamondbacks for Class A outfielder Daniel Palka. It’s a deal that won’t have much impact for the next couple of seasons, especially since the Twins acquired Herrmann’s successor, John Ryan Murphy, a day later in the deal with New York, but there’s a chance, the team believes, that there’s a pretty decent payoff ahead a couple of years from now.
Palka batted .280 for Visalia in the California League last season, but more importantly, he smacked 29 homers, fourth-most in the league and just three behind league leader Tyler O’Neill of the Mariners’ team in Bakersfield. The power is real, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said, and the Twins have been interested in acquiring it for a long time.
“Palka is a big, strong guy. We followed him at Georgia Tech, and he hit them where they’ve never seen anybody hit them in college,” Antony said.
The Twins believe Palka will strongly complement another power hitter in their organization, Adam Brett Walker. The sluggers were born 10 days apart in October 1991, so both just turned 24. Palka is left-handed and was chosen in the third round of the 2013 draft after three seasons with the Yellow Jackets; Walker is right-handed and was chosen in the third round of the 2012 draft after three seasons at Jacksonville.
Both are strikeout prone, but both can hit the ball a long way. Walker led Class AA last season with 31 home runs.
“Put Palka with Walker, and we’ve got two of the best power-potential guys in the game,” Antony said. “They both have things to work on, controlling the strike zone, mostly, but both guys have natural power that’s hard to find.”
Palka figures to inherit Walker’s spot at Class AA Chattanooga to start 2016, while Walker — who has hit five home runs in 16 games at the Arizona Fall League over the past three weeks — should move up to Class AAA Rochester.
The price to acquire Palka was right, too. Herrmann “was probably going to be squeezed out,” Antony said, after batting just .146 (15 for 103) with two home runs last season. Herrmann turns 27 next week, and I heard him described as “more of a National League player” last season. Turns out, Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart — who was Herrmann’s agent before he went into management — thought so, too.
“They envision him as a good guy off the bench, because he can play first base, second base, third base, outfield and catch,” Antony said, though he was mostly a catcher last season. “That fits better in the National League, because they pinch-hit so much more. You can double-switch and always be protected at any position, because Chris can handle just about anywhere.”