Cleveland super-utility prospect Richard Palacios had every reason to be down on himself after a 2019 shoulder injury derailed a fast rise through the club’s minor league system.
Instead, the 2018 third-round pick out of Towson University picked up right where he left off two and a half years ago and has been one of Cleveland’s most consistent minor league hitters in a loaded Akron lineup.
Through 30 games in 2021 played in a mixture of outfield and second base, Palacios has impressed with a .306/.409/.463 slash that includes 12 doubles and 26 runs scored.
Having recently turned 24 years old and hailing from a family full of former and current baseball players, Palacios has his sights set on the ultimate goal, making it to the big leagues, and he’s doing everything in his power to make it there.
Palacios spoke with Covering The Corner recently about his social media presence, his vaunted work ethic and being able to show some personality in baseball in this exclusive interview.
Brian Hemminger: What goes into making a good TikTok, because your TikTok game is crazy.
Richard Palacios: I feel like the reason some of my videos are good is because I don’t care how it comes out really, so I’m just creative as can be and I just let my personality out to get people to comment on it or like it, get kids to copy it or comment on it. The important part for me is to make connections with fans through that that I might never meet. If it goes bad, so what, but if it goes well, maybe do more like that.
Brian Hemminger: I heard you even got recognized on the baseball field by a fan, but not because of baseball, it was because of your TikTok.
Richard Palacios: (laughs) That’s when I knew I’ve gotta keep doing this thing. If people recognize me from that content, it helps you meet new people and showcases my personality and not just baseball.
Brian Hemminger: You’re a man of many talents. From my research, you’ve got some hoop skills, you can golf, you can putt, you can catch a football with the toe tips on the sideline. Have you always been a really good athlete?
Richard Palacios: I do play a lot of sports. I played basketball in high school. I just started to golf, because a lot of my teammates do it. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I enjoy playing all kinds of sports for sure.
Brian Hemminger: So when you get together with your teammates whether it’s basketball or golf or whatever, who’s got the bragging rights?
Richard Palacios: We’ve got some nasty golfers on this team that have been golfing for a while. I’d say I’m the best at everything but golf right now. I’d say for current teammates, it’s (Alex) Call, but from my draft year, I’d have to go with Jordan Brown. That guy can place the ball wherever he wants it to go. It’s pretty amazing.
Brian Hemminger: Say you’re on a long road trip and the bus ride is pretty grueling, what do you do to pass the time?
Richard Palacios: I sleep a lot on long bus rides, but besides that, we play PlayStation, games like MLB The Show, Call of Duty. We also play a lot of cards. That’s our go-to when we need to pass the time.
Brian Hemminger: I’ve heard plenty about video games from players, but I haven’t heard much about cards. What kinds of games do you play?
Richard Palacios: We play presidents, we play Uno because everyone knows how to play Uno. We play 13, a bunch of simple card games we all know. It helps us relax and talk trash to each other (laughs).
Brian Hemminger: Speaking of that, I saw you mention you wish people would show their personalities a bit more. Is that something you think this next generation of players might be able to change the game?
Richard Palacios: Yeah, I definitely think the up-and-coming generation will be able to change it, and it’s been changing recently. You’re seeing more personality and a lot of guys are showing that they’re having a great time out there, which I think is the most important thing. I do feel like it’s changing and it will continue changing as long the people above don’t suppress the guy from being themselves. I like it when people make a ton of money and they’re still out there showing that they care about winning and they’re enjoying it and having a great time with their team. Baseball is a hard sport and you want to be able to show you enjoy it. I think everyone being themselves will help with showing personality and excitement.
Brian Hemminger: Getting into baseball, what was it like getting to watch your brother make his pro debut. Can you put it into words what it was like to witness that?
Richard Palacios: That was amazing. It was crazy. I was actually in Spring Training and we were watching in the locker room and my heart was beating fast every time he was at the plate. It was amazing to see. I’ve seen him his whole life work extra hard. He beat the odds, got overlooked, and continued to work hard through that and persevered through that. It was such a great feeling getting to see him on TV in the Major Leagues. It was just unbelievable. It made me realize how close I am, just one or two phone calls away. It magnified how close I am and continued to make me think that the guys above me are a little more consistent than the guys below.
Brian Hemminger: When you got drafted, you were killing it at every level Cleveland placed you, but then that shoulder injury derailed your momentum. Can you put into words what it was like to have that setback with the shoulder injury?
Richard Palacios: I had such a great start and was able to perform at such a great level the way I did that first year. It was hard not being able to play that entire 2019 season. I just had to get my mentality straight and in that year I was away from baseball, I worked on the things I could work on. I could improve my body. I could improve my mind. I could work on things that would improve my game overall when I come back. I felt like taking that mentality helped me so that even though I didn’t get to play that (2019) season, I was able to get better through it and now here I am.
Brian Hemminger: And now to compound things, you finally get healthy and then they cancel the 2020 season because of COVID-19. I’m sure that had to be insanely frustrating, so what was it like to finally step on the field and get to play a meaningful game again this year?
Richard Palacios: It had been two and a half years since I’d been on the field in a minor league game. It definitely was a long time coming. It gets me even more excited to get out there and not take anything for granted. I was just happy to be out there.
Brian Hemminger: It seems like work ethic is the number one thing that comes up when I read articles or scouting reports on you. Where does that come from? Where do you find that extra motivation to push yourself that extra level?
Richard Palacios: That was instilled on me from my family. My uncle (Rey Palacios) played played Major League Baseball, my father played in the minor leagues. They pretty much showed me what it was gonna take as a young kid and as a young teenager, to make it to that level. After that point, it was up to me to do the work on my own when they weren’t always there. Once I got that instilled in me, once I knew that this was what I wanted to do, I knew it was gonna be a lot of work and self evaluation. I knew when I went to college, that I had to work extra hard to get what I wanted, and once I started seeing success from my hard work, I couldn’t stop it.
Brian Hemminger: When you came back, it wasn’t just that you were dealing with 2 1⁄2 years away from organized baseball, you were having to learn a new position as well, putting in a lot of time in the outfield. What has that been like, dealing with that adjustment?
Richard Palacios: It hasn’t been too bad. I played outfield before, but they pretty much told me I’d be playing all positions as a utility guy and it would give me the greatest opportunity to make the Major League team as soon as possible. I definitely am fine with that. I don’t care what position I play. It’s tough to learn, but that comes with practice and reps. Once I did that, I was able to get comfortable out there, especially knowing it’ll get me to the Major Leagues sooner. That’s what the plan is, at least.
Brian Hemminger: You are one of the most patient hitters in the entire Cleveland system. You’re top five in walk-rate last I checked. What goes into being patient at the plate? Is it about recognizing pitches? Is it about having a good feel up there? How does that work for you, because some players just can’t do it?
Richard Palacios: Yeah, I think it’s a mix of recognizing pitches and having a solid plan and approach. I have my approach and I stick to it. If the ball’s not within my plan, I’m not gonna swing at it, unless I’m at two strikes. I feel like I recognize pitches, being able to see what they’re doing throughout the game to certain guys, and then one of the most important things is not being afraid to strike out. I know I’m good with two strikes. I know I can hit well with two strikes. so I’m not going up there scared and swinging early at pitches I don’t want to hit because I’m afraid to get to two strikes in the first place.
Brian Hemminger: You hear about how analytics has changed pitching so much, but has it affected your hitting as well?
Richard Palacios: It has a decent effect. You can see how hard you’re hitting the ball, whether you’re swinging at strikes, and it’s helpful because you can get unlucky in baseball sometimes. Maybe you’ve hit the ball hard in 10 straight plate appearances, but it’s going right to people. It could get you down if you only focus on the batting average, but if you look at the analytics and see you’re hitting the ball hard and still swinging at strikes, more often than not, you know the hits will come if you keep up that approach, because it evens out.
Brian Hemminger: Do you have any drills that help you the most?
Richard Palacios: My drills are specifically based on my swing. They help me hit the ball to the opposite field. It helps me wait a bit longer on pitches, which allows me to let the ball get deeper and helps me recognize pitches better. So for me, that’s what I pride myself on, being able to see the ball, recognize pitches, and then still be able to go the opposite way on a fastball or pull a changeup or slider.
Brian Hemminger: That approach actually paid off for you because your first home run this season was to the opposite field, right?
Richard Palacios: Yeah, it was. It works, it works!
Brian Hemminger: Did you have any goals that you set for yourself this season?
Richard Palacios: My goals aren’t really number-based. They’re more about my plan and my approach, because I know if I stick to my plan and my approach, the numbers will follow. The other thing is to work on my health because I know when I’m healthy, I’m a really good player. I work on maintaining my legs, my shoulder, make sure all that stuff stays healthy because as long as I’m healthy, I’m good enough to play at a high level.
Brian Hemminger: Do you have a routine before games?
Richard Palacios: I have a routine and I stick to it. The most important way to stay consistent is to have a routine so your body is feeling the same thing every day and your mind is feeling the same every day. You’re not just practicing with a plan, you have a specific plan. I’ve had very much success with having a plan like that. I go in, I do a certain amount of drills, I do my shoulder prep. I read my Bible before the game, then I do some swings at the machine before the game and warm up.
Brian Hemminger: Any shoutouts?
Richard Palacios: I’ve shouted my family already, so I want to shout out my coaches that have helped me throughout my career. They’ve been a big help and given me confidence.
You can follow Richard on Twitter @Elite_Rich_1 and on TikTok at @richiejpalacios3 or Instagram at @Richiemille.