Milwaukee Brewers Promote RHP Ariel Pena to MLB

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Outside of recently promoted Zach Davies, the Milwaukee Brewers have been somewhat quiet on the September call-up front so far, which is unsurprising considering their status as non-contender. The team has chosen to wait their minor league affiliates’ seasons to complete before making a significant wave of promotions, choosing not to bring guys up who won’t have a definite role with the team this month. The Brewers did, however, make the move to add another arm to the big league pitching staff earlier today.

Ariel Pena, 26, has pitched the entirety of his season in AAA Colorado Springs in 2015. He began this season working on a transition to relief, but after some bumps in the road and seeing a few starters promoted to the bigs, Pena found himself back in the starting rotation. It was in his seven starts this season that he experienced the most success: 30.1 innings pitched, 33 strikeouts, eight walks, and a 2.37 ERA. On the season, Pena has pitched 82.2 innings in 43 appearances, producing a 4.14 ERA, 3.95 FIP, and a 39% ground ball rate. Missing bats has never been an issue for Pena, and he struck out nearly 24% of batters he faced this season. Pena’s biggest improvement has been his control: after walking greater than 5.0 batters per nine innings in his first two and a half seasons in the Brewers’ system, Pena drastically reduced that number to just 3.5 BB/9 this season.

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Pena was acquired as a part of the 2012 trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels. Jean Segura and Johnny Hellweg have both already appeared at the big league level for Milwaukee, so when Pena makes his debut it means that all three players that the Brewers picked up in that deal will have played in the major leagues. Once considered a top 15 prospect in the organization, Pena was removed from the Brewers’ 40 man roster last offseason after failing to impress in his first stint at AAA. With a solid campaign this year, however, Pena has reestablished himself as a viable organizational depth piece. The Brewers needed to add Pena to the 40 man roster in order to call him up, meaning Milwaukee now has just one open space remaining.

Ariel Pena has the body of a starter at 6’3″ and 250 lbs and features an above average heater that sits in the mid 90s, but he is essentially a two pitch pitcher. His secondary pitch is a slider that has been called “erratic” by John Sickels of Minor League Ball, and his changeup has never really developed as hoped. Ariel has always struggled to locate the baseball and has walked over 11% of the hitters he has faced in his nine year minor league career, so he will need to continue to prove that the gains he made in his control this season are for real. Pena experienced solid success as a starter this season in AAA, albeit in a small sample size, but it’s exceedingly likely that his big league future will ultimately lie in the bullpen.

Next: Interview with Brewers RHP Gentry Fortuno

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