Can you feel the excitement? Today is February, 6, 2016 and we’re just 58 days away from Opening Day on April 4th.
Today we profile a player who saw his stock rise in 2015 much like his jersey number did. After wearing #68 in big league camp last year, this year #58 belongs to…
What a difference a few months can make.
From being considered the third piece in the return when the Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Southern California, USA, Peña stands today as the only one left in the organization. First came the minor league free agency of Johnny Hellweg (following a lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery) in which he decided to sign with the San Diego Padres organization. Then came the trade which sent centerpiece Jean Segura to the Arizona Diamondbacks (along with Tyler Wagner) for three different players.
Hellweg had control and command issues during his entire Brewers run (not to mention most of his professional career overall). Segura’s excellent debut and All-Star Game run looked extremely promising and while his defense continued to be a strength, his offense largely fizzled. So that leaves Peña who has had a history of command and control problems of his own but who took a step in the right direction by slashing his walk rate (in Class-AAA Colorado Springs of all places) to the lowest it had been since the first half of his 2012 Double-A season.
Some numbers still don’t look great but if you look at the improvements over 2014 and factor in the change in environments, there are enough encouraging signs to understand why Peña was called upon to finally make his Major League debut as a September call-up once the Sky Sox season ended.
Peña first appeared in relief but then started the rest of the way eventually appearing in six games and tossing 27.1 innings in the Show. He finished with a 4.28 ERA. He didn’t have a scoreless appearance and his walk rate jumped back up to 4.6. He did maintain a strong strikeout rate though as he K’d 27 batters in those 27.1 IP, putting his MLB number at 8.9 K/9 after he finished his minor league season with 83 K in 82.2 IP.
Out of minor league options, Peña is going to have to show something when camp opens in under two weeks at Maryvale. After all, he is the acquisition of the previous regime and is now 26 years old. Peña will be an inexpensive option to fill out the bullpen for 2016 and seems made for the long-relief/swingman role to begin the year. Then again, I’m very interested to see what new pitching coach Derek Johnson decides to do with Peña though. He could decide that short-relief, higher-leverage situations like 7th inning work make the most sense. There’s a chance that Peña’s command could be harnessed in a bit in shorter stints on the mound.
Regardless of the role, Peña still seems intriguing enough that the Brewers will want to keep him around to begin 2016 and see what they have in him over a long look at the big league level.
Follow Ariel on Twitter: @2Eltrabieso
Catch up on BBtJN ’16:
- Kickoff Column – #68-#78
- #63 – Junior Guerra
- #62 – Garin Cecchini
- #61 – Ramón Flores
- #60 – Keon Broxton