Inevitably before the Futures Game or any All-Star game for that matter, players will for some reason need to miss the game. Sometimes the reasons are unfortunate, such as injury. In this case, it’s all smiles from everyone- Yasmani Grandal of the Padres and Edwar Cabrera of the Rockies will both miss the game because they have been promoted to the big leagues. Grandal has hit .296 in his first 8 games with 4 home runs while Cabrera got hit hard in his big league debut. The promotions of Grandal and Pena open the door for two other players to join the team. Those players are right-hander Ariel Pena from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and catcher Ali Solis from the San Diego Padres.
Pena is a 23 year old 6’3″, 190 right-hander signed out of the Dominican Republic. Pena works with a sinker-slider combination, although his arsenal does not induce nearly as many groundballs as you would expect. Pena’s sinker doesn’t feature much depth in its downward break, but its late action is so dynamic, almost like a cutter, that it has the same result of weak contact on the ground- when he can locate it. Pena’s sinker ranges from the low to mid-90′s in velocity and is a dominant pitch when everything goes right for Pena mechanically. His slider is another in the mid-80′s is another pitch that shows flashes, featuring sharp late break and disappearing down. Pena also throws a changeup, but he has never been able to use it as an effective pitch consistently. Pena’s problems stem from his delivery. He features a sharp crossfire and he has problems not just with his arm slot but his entire motion as he moves his arm forward at different points in his delivery, leading to major control and command issues and adds an element of surprise as to how exactly his pitches will move. But in 2012, Pena has been able to stay mostly mechanically sound and the results have been pretty good. He has gone 5-5 for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers with a 2.95 ERA, an 8.8 K/9, a 3.3 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9 in 16 starts and 94.2 IP. Pena hasn’t been able to force nearly as many groundballs as he should, managing a below-league average 42.9% groundball rate (per Minor League Central) and of course the not so shiny homer rate. His control and command remain serious issues. But his pitches are simply allergic to contact and if Pena can maintain consistency in his mechanics and figure out some idea of where his pitches are going, he has the ability to be a topflight pitcher. Whether that happens is a mystery. Pena may have number one starter upside but because of his set of issues could end up as a number three starter, a four or five, or even in the bullpen. The Angels have to like what they have seen from Pena this season to jolt him into the Futures Game, but it’s just one step in a process which of indiscernible length.
The Padres replaced one of their catchers with another, and while Solis doesn’t have nearly the superstar ability of Grandal, he has some talent. Solis 24, is a 6’0″, 175 catcher signed out of Mexico. At the plate he shows solid bat speed with some pop, but he is a very impatient hitter and struggles against quality breaking pitcher. Defensively, he has a strong and accurate arm, but his actions are choppy and his receiving ability still needs a lot of work. Solis is clearly a step down from most of talent at the Futures Game, but he has put together a pretty nice season in 2012, posting a .296/.319/.453 line with 18 doubles, 5 homers, and 32 RBI for the Double-A San Antonio Missions. He made just 1 error in 54 games at catcher and posted a 30% CS%, but he allowed 10 passed balls. Solis’ upside appears to be a backup catcher who combines power with arm strength, albeit if the rest of his game appears raw. Solis may very well still have some development yet to do, though, and if he rounds out his game who knows how good he can be.
That will do it for our S2S breakdown of the 2012 World Team for the MLB Futures Game. I hope you enjoyed reading and it will be exciting to watch these players take the field at 5 PM today, July 8th.