Palensky says getting on base consistently is his biggest strength. [Photo: University of Nebraska]
In a "free preview" of our PinstripesPlus.com premium content, we sat down with newly signed undrafted free agent Aaron Palensky. Find out what the outfielder from the University of Nebraska says about his game, signing with the Yankees, and more. Want more content like this? Be sure to subscribe to PinstripesPlus.com so you don't miss any of our content. Every subscription has a 7-day free trial so you can try us out for a while.
PinstripesPlus.com: Tell us what’s going through your mind after signing with the New York Yankees.
Aaron Palensky: I knew once the Yankees reached out a couple of weeks ago -- really I was excited -- we got to talking this [past] week once they were allowed to reach out during the free agent period. They offered me on Sunday and I did a lot of thinking and praying with my family, and I knew the Yankees would be the right move because they’re the best team in baseball. They’ve won more World Series than everybody else, they have the best player development, and I knew signing with the Yankees would give me my best chance of getting of making it to the big leagues.
PinstripesPlus.com: I know the draft was only five rounds this year. Did you think you might get selected in the draft? Did you think you might be signing as an undrafted free agent? What was your mindset leading up to the draft?
Palensky: No teams talked to me about drafting me. To say the least I was pretty bummed about that, not hearing my name called, but at the same time I had to accept it because nobody reached out about it. To be honest I just thought I’d be going back to [the University of] Nebraska because I knew I was going to get free agent offers but I wasn’t seriously considering it until it was right in front of me. I thought it was too good to be true and I knew that signing with the Yankees would give me a really good opportunity.
PinstripesPlus.com: So you did talk to the Yankees before the draft, correct?
Palensky: Yeah that was like a week before the draft. They reached out for the first time, really to touch base and get to know me a bit. They didn’t say like ‘hey, we’re going to draft you in this round’ or anything, or ‘we’re going to sign you at this time’. They were just reaching out to establish a relationship and once they were able to reach out on Sunday things got real serious.
PinstripesPlus.com: So did they call you at 9am eastern exactly on Sunday?
Palensky: They called me right about two minutes after they were allowed to contact people. I definitely had an idea that they were one of the teams that were going to reach out because they had talked to me a couple of times before the draft. I had a feeling that they were going to be one the teams to reach out.
PinstripesPlus.com: A couple of other guys told me they were up early on Sunday, not able to sleep really in anticipation of getting that 9am eastern call. Was that you too? Were you up early that day waiting on a call?
Palensky: I was actually kind of nervous because at 9am I’d be at church on Sunday. I didn’t want to get a call there because I’m not going answer my phone right there in the middle of the service so I left my ringer on in case I needed to be woken up and woke up right when they were able to call.
PinstripesPlus.com: Talk about your game and how you see yourself fitting in with the Yankees.
Palensky: I feel like I have a knack for reaching base whether that’s a hit or a walk. In my entire career at Nebraska, in like 76 or something games, whatever that number is, I think I’ve reached base in all but – I may be wrong – but like six to eight games. So I feel I’m really effective at getting on base. In recent years I really developed my power to hit for extra-base hits and home runs. I feel like I’m a guy that has one objective; either score someone or be scored. So if the runner is on base I excel at getting him in and there’s nobody on base I excel at getting on base.
PinstripesPlus.com: Is that your biggest strength then, getting on base?
Palensky: I’d say from an offensive standpoint, yes, getting on base is my biggest strength and making hard contact. My defensive ability I’d say I have a very quick and accurate release, so whatever I lack in outstanding arm strength I do feel like I get the ball in quick and accurately.
PinstripesPlus.com: What about your range? Aside from the arm strength you feel like you’re good to go defensively?
Palensky: Yeah, I feel like I have the ability to read the ball off the bat, get a jump on the ball, and I feel like I have a good sense to be able to cover ground. I’d say I’m an above average runner. I wouldn’t say a 6-4 runner by any means but I do think the ball down in the gap or come in on a ball, and making a play.
PinstripesPlus.com: What would you say is the biggest thing you need to work on?
Palensky: I would say defensively my arm strength to give me the double whammy of quick, accurate release. If had a couple of more miles per hour behind my throws I feel like that could make me a better defensive weapon. Offensively I feel like I can do a better job with the walk to strikeout ratio. I feel like I did a lot better at that this past season that we hardly got into because last season I had more strikeouts than walks and it’s always good to have more walks than strikeouts. I’m glad I showed some improvement this past season.
PinstripesPlus.com: Did you have a favorite team growing up? How about a favorite player?
Palensky: My favorite team was actually the St. Louis Cardinals. My favorite player was Albert Pujols until he got traded to the Angels. My family and I were not happy about that.
PinstripesPlus.com: Who would you compare your game to at the big league level to give our readers an idea of what your game is like?
Palensky: My older brother always played like Ian Kinsler. Even though we’re not the same position he always thought I had a similar makeup to him, a similar way we play the game, and a similar skillset. I’d say Ian Kinsler but if I had to choose an outfielder it’d be Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen might be just a little faster than me but I feel like both play solid defense and we’re both solid hitters.
PinstripesPlus.com: What about power-wise? Do you feel like you’re in that Kinslder-McCutchen wheelhouse power-wise?
Palensky: Yeah, my power has steadily developed. This year I felt more powerful than I ever have. I’m also excited to see what the Yankees can do to unlock that even more.
PinstripesPlus.com: Do you see yourself sticking in the corner outfield spots?
Palensky: Yeah I do see myself staying probably in the corner outfield. If maybe I increase my speed a little bit I could maybe go to centerfield but I would say left field or right field. Right field is where I’m most comfortable but left or right is probably where I’d stick.
PinstripesPlus.com: What is your favorite baseball moment up until now?
Palensky: First I’ll go team one and then I’ll go individual. My favorite team moment was back in high school. My summer team, we weren’t that good and we weren’t expected to even go to State. We were the five seed and all you needed was the second seed to get to State. We were the five seed though and we had a rough season but our team just absolutely came together and made two upsets in a row to get to the championship game. We ended up losing the championship game but we won one game in the State tournament. I was glad to see all of us come together and finish my high school career the right way. Individually I’d say my favorite moment was in the Super Regional at junior college [Southeast Community College] my freshman year I hit an opposite field grand slam to not only break my school record for RBIs but to break the school record in home runs, and that was really good to do that in a Super Regional.
PinstripesPlus.com: I know the whole Coronavirus thing has delayed everything but how excited are you to get this all started once you’re able to get back out there?
Palensky: Man, once they say we’re able to get down there and go to work…I just can’t wait for that to happen.