For most Yankees fans, even those who will tell you they follow the farm system closely, the name Aaron Palensky is one many don’t know.
If that doesn’t change soon, it certainly should, as the 22-year-old outfielder has authored an incredible first five weeks to his professional career. It’s one that, incredibly, has started at the Double-A level despite joining the Yankees organization as an undrafted free agent in 2020 out of the University of Nebraska.
“I definitely had high expectations, not only for myself, but for the team, going into my junior year,” said Palensky, who starred for the Cornhuskers after transferring there out of junior college.
“Only playing through 15 games, especially since we won six of our last seven or something like that, I felt like we were going to have a really good year. When I heard that the Draft was going to be shortened, I knew it really hurt my chances, especially when I knew it was going to be shortened to five rounds. My chances were slim to none to get drafted in those five rounds. I knew I’d still have some sort of opportunity to sign, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or not. It was a tough decision if I wanted to sign (in) professional (baseball) or go back to Nebraska, but the Yankees, with everything that they have to offer with player development, I felt like that was the best decision for me. I’m not regretting it right now.”
Neither are they. In his first 13 games, Palensky has mashed and mustached his way to a .325 batting average with one homer and ten RBI, as well as six extra-base hits.
Not bad for a guy who was delivering Amazon packages when the Yankees called.
“I was in the middle of my route, and I got a call from an unknown number,” he said. “Usually, I have my phone silenced when I was working, but this day I didn’t for some reason. I saw it was an unknown number, and I assumed it was probably going to be a team, because I’d been getting calls around that time. When the scout said, ‘Hey, Matt Ranson with the Yankees,’ I was like, ‘Oh crap, better pull over for this one.’ So, it was cool.”
Palensky has gone from Amazon delivery routes to routes on fly balls in the outfield at TD Bank Ballpark relatively seamlessly, and has arguably been one of the most pleasant surprises in the organization given he skipped both Low-A and High-A to come to Somerset.
“I was in my hotel room in extended (spring training), and my extended coach called me and was telling me I was going to Somerset, and when he called me, he said I was getting promoted, so I was assuming he was going to say it was to Tampa, the Low-A team,” he said. “When he said I was going to Somerset, I was really confused. I was like, ‘Man, I’m jumping how many levels to get here.’ So, I went to the field to pack up my stuff, and I told my roommate, and said, ‘Hey, I’m getting moved up to Double-A, so I’m going to go pack up my stuff,’ and it really didn’t even dawn on me that I was getting moved up until I was on the way there. I called my dad, and my dad was so excited for me. It was just a really weird feeling, going from 0 to 100 like that.”
Palensky says he’s been able to adapt quickly to similarly potentially challenging situations in his past, so he isn’t surprised that he’s been able to perform as well as he has early on. He’s also not surprised that he’s been playing as much as he has; inexperienced, undrafted players are often summoned to an upper level when, to be frank, a warm body is needed to fill a spot.
“I really had no idea, but I knew since they were calling me up, they wouldn’t call me up just to sit the bench,” he said. “I was assuming I was going to be playing. Whenever they wanted me to play, they wanted me to play. With my small sample size of success, I knew I’d get more opportunities.”