Padres Player Profile: Ramiro Pena
Earlier last week, the San Diego Padres announced several of their non-roster invitees for their upcoming spring training camp in Arizona. There were a handful of names that have been established big leaguers in the past, such as Jose Valverde, but one name stuck out to me in particular as someone who also covers the New York Yankees, that being infielder Ramiro Pena. The move, while not flashy, could end up paying bigger dividends for the Padres this upcoming season than anyone might think.
One of the first pieces of off-season business for new GM A.J. Preller was to cut ties with former All-Star shortstop, Everth Cabrera. Injuries and off the field issues became too much, and add in a PED suspension, and that was it for Cabrera in San Diego. Since his departure, it’s been assumed that super-utility man Alexi Amarista was finally going to be given the starting nod at shortstop. Then Preller went out and signed veteran infielder Clint Barmes, who brings very little to the table, and has many fans still scratching their heads. This is where the invite of Pena becomes an interesting topic.
The Padres as situated right now, are far too right-handed. They don’t have a legitimate shortstop on the big league roster, and they traded away the future shortstop in Trea Turner to get Wil Myers. While Pena is no superstar by any stretch of the imagination, he could be a cheap compliment to Amarista and an upgrade over Barmes when camp breaks.
Between the Atlanta Braves and the Yankees in six big league seasons of limited action, Pena has a triple slash line of only .244/.288/.330. Amarista in four big league seasons, has a triple slash line of .234/.279/.336. Very similar, but when baseball becomes an every at-bat, every pitch situation, and there are no stars in the pipeline or available in free agency, you almost have to give Pena the edge, but just slightly. Now throw in Clint Barmes, and the Padres have almost triplets in the three players. Over his career, the 35-year old Barmes has a triple slash line of .246/.295/.380. Does it get much closer than that between three players? If I’m A.J. Preller, I love Pena coming in to camp to push Barmes for a roster spot.
Pena is a switch-hitter, and is only 29-years old. Amarista is 25, and is better suited to remain Bud Black‘s jack of all trades, master of none off the bench. Barmes is expendable, pure and simple. Pena also brings some speed capacity to the lineup. While he only has 12 career stolen bases, most utility and plug and play guys rarely want to risk making a mistake and getting caught stealing.
His first two seasons in the bigs, in just over 120 plate appearances in each, he had seasons of 4 and 7 stolen bases, respectively. If he were to win the starting shortstop’s job out of camp, and gets 500 at-bats, it isn’t unreasonable to think that he could register 15-20 steals over the course of a season. Pena can play both middle infield positions as well as third base. He and Amarista could make a solid 1-2 platoon duo, with Pena shifting, along with Yangervis Solarte, all over the infield, keeping players such as Jedd Gyorko and Will Middlebrooks fresh and healthy. We know Amarista can play the outfield too, so there should be enough at-bats for both. Again, this is where this is simply no room for Clint Barmes on this roster. I can’t believe for one second, other than because he’s been given a big league contract, that A.J. Preller would keep someone of such limited skills and advanced age on this roster.
Over his career, according to Fangraphs.com, Pena has a Total Zone rating as a shortstop of 2. Pena’s UZR, or Ultimate Zone Rating for his career at shortstop is 0.3. Not great I know. Amarista? His UZR is a -1.4…now that’s a big difference with the leather. Give Barmes some credit here however, as his UZR is listed out at 1.8 in 2014. But on the flip side of that coin, Barmes might come in better than Pena, but his 1.8 is down from 8.9 in 2013. That is a drastic drop off in performance.
So, if you’re looking for a dark horse, non-roster invite to keep an eye one once Cactus League games get underway in Arizona, keep an eye on Ramiro Pena. He just might surprise you.
Next: Padres Extend Spring Training Invites
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