Better Know a (Future) Brewer: Ariel Pena


And now, the gripping conclusion of Better Know a (Future) Brewer, where we shed light on the three prospects brought to the Brewers farm system by way of a Zack Greinke trade to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

In our final installment, we look at right-handed pitcher Ariel Pena.

Ariel Pena leaves many people watching him sitting squarely on the fence. For some, his ceiling is incredibly high – projections as an ace of a rotation or high-end starter are not uncommon. For others, his floor is too low – he walks too many batters and his development just isn’t coming along quick enough.

You can never please all the people all the time, but Pena has pleased enough to make him the number twelve prospect in the Brewers top 20 just a few short hours after arriving as the newest member of the AA Huntsville Stars.

After all, you should expect a lot from a player the LA Times called “the new K-Rod.” Current performance notwithstanding for K-Rod, those are some high expectations to reach. The 23 year-old righty is doing his best to live up to them, mostly by fanning batters at a rate near one an inning, a total of 111 in 19 Texas League starts. His walk rate is high, which mostly comes from the continued development of his change as a compliment to a plus-fastball that routinely hits mid-90’s and can stay there throughout a start.

The fastball is what draws people in to Pena, he can locate it well and it just awes big league scouts. He has a tendency to put pitches up in the zone, which leads to a lot of fly balls. It isn’t a big concern in AA ball, but will need to be corrected before he makes a trip up to Milwaukee. His durability is also a nice bonus – he’s posted a complete game in five of six minor league seasons and is no stranger to going deep into games. As an added bonus, he’s made a few multi-inning relief outings including one for the Angels in Spring Training where he went three innings.

Relief work is the most possible outcome for Pena in Milwaukee. The bullpen does not appear to be getting better anytime soon, and a durable arm like Pena’s would definitely fit in well in the near future. It would also benefit him simply because there would be less work that needed to be done to get him into a bullpen, and it would expose him less to the left-handed bats that continue to baffle him. If he can develop into a Major League starter, he would be somewhere in the middle of a rotation on his current track, but if things slow down he can still be excellent arm in the back end of a bullpen – I like him as an eighth inning set-up.

Potential is the name of the game when dealing with prospects, and Ariel Pena has it in spades. He’s a tweak or two away from the Brewers bullpen in many people’s opinions, and definitely a player to watch for 2013.