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Knizner, Gilbert off to good starts in pro ball

Palmeiro hasn't seen the same success as his former teammates.

NC State's 2016 draft class has seen mixed results in their respective professional debuts. Andrew Knizner and Will Gilbert don't appear to have much left to prove at their current levels, while Preston Palmeiro has scuffled mightily.

Knizner is triple slashing .292/.405/.451 for the Johnson City Cardinals in the Appalachian League. Those numbers are better than he put up as a junior at NC State, and his production is 32% above league average. But the rookie-level league is definitely a rung or two below major college baseball. I've taken in a couple of his games, and actually I've seen high school programs that would not embarrass themselves against the raw bunch of mostly teenagers. Knizner is old for the league and will hopefully get an opportunity to showcase his abilities against better competition before the season concludes.

Knizner has split his time pretty evenly between first base and catcher. On the bright side, he's thrown out and impressive 48% of would-be base thieves; however, he continues to struggle with his receiving skills. He's allowed eight passed balls in 16 games, and in one game I saw he got five-holed by a ball in the dirt when he tried to glove it rather than drop to his knees and block up.

Gilbert is a rung higher on the ladder with Vermont of the short season New York-Penn League. He leads the Lake Monsters with 12 appearances, and he's pitched well in a setup role. Opponents have managed a paltry .570 OPS against him, and he's fanned 10.7 batters per nine innings.  Gilbert's ERA stands at 3.26.

The lefty hasn't toed the rubber in a week but doesn't show up as being on the DL on any minor league transactions sites I perused. My guess is that the A's may have shut him down after the rigors of a college season that saw him miss time with injury. Between NC State and Vermont, Gilbert has made 36 appearances spanning 72 innings. That's a big jump in usage from his 29 outings and 47.1 innings from his junior campaign.

Perhaps waiting until the 11th hour to sign did not benefit Palmeiro, as he has been unable to shake off the rust at short-season Aberdeen, posting an ugly .230/.266/.262 triple slash line. His plate discipline has all but disappeared (anemic 4.7% walk rate), and his K rate is out of control (31.3%). Swaggy P had 30 extra base hits and 29 walks in 60 games for the Pack. He's managed just two extra base hits and three walks through 17 games of his debut professional season.

If there's a bright spot for Palmeiro it comes on the defensive side, where he's handled 128 chances without an error at first base. And, given his pedigree (did you know he was Rafael Palmeiro's son?), the Orioles are likely to show lots of patience with him.