Nineteen-year-old Hayden Penn has heard the comparisons to Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer. Despite the high leg kick, lean 6-foot-3 frame and West Coast upbringing, the hard-throwing right-hander can only laugh.
"It's ridiculous to even put me in the same sentence with that name," said Penn. "But I feel confident in my stuff and feel like I have a pretty good future if I stay healthy."
In his second season in the Orioles' organization, the former fifth-round draft pick continues to show off that vast potential.
Earlier this season with lower Class A Delmarva, Penn was named the organization's pitcher of the month, going 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA in seven games while holding opponents to a .216 average. Now, after being promoted to advanced Class A Frederick, he continues to impress, winning his first two decisions with a 1.56 ERA through three starts.
On Thursday, he threw seven no-hit innings against Winston-Salem in a 6-0 win, as always using his knee-buckling change-up to set up his fastball, which this season has been clocked as fast as 95 mph.
"I like to pitch backwards," said Penn. "I like to start hitters off with off-speed, then come with the good fastball. Get them looking early, then have them guessing toward the end."
A two-sport standout in high school, Penn planned on playing both baseball and basketball in college after signing a letter-of-intent to attend San Diego State. At the time, Baseball America ranked him as the 29th best college recruit.
The lure of a professional bonus, however, helped steer him to the pros, where his main goal these days has been to gain greater consistency on the mound. To that end, Penn works often with former Orioles standout Scott McGregor, now the pitching coach for the Keys.
"The biggest thing for me is just being consistent," said Penn. "If I can stay consistent, then I think I'll have a pretty good chance to advance up the ladder pretty quickly."