Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Felix Pena

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 09: Felix Pena #60 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on September 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 15-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 09: Felix Pena #60 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on September 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 15-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

On Sunday, June 24, the Blue Jays will complete their four game set against the Los Angeles Angels. Felix Pena will start for the Halos, while Sam Gavilio starts for the Blue Jays.

Felix Pena was traded from the Cubs to the Angels late last season. In fact, the deal was completed on October 9, when the Cubs were playing postseason baseball. However, a baseball executive is never done dealing, so Pena was shipped to the Angels for a player to be named later while the Cubs were trying to repeat as World Series Champs.

The right-hander was exclusively a bullpen arm for the north siders, running out of the bullpen 36 times. However, the Angels have tried to convert the young pitcher into a starter. Sunday afternoon will be just the second big league start of the twenty-eight-year-old’s career.

The young righty drew the Arizona Diamondbacks for his first big league start. He was great, allowing two hits and just one earned run across four complete innings. While he struck out a high number of batters with six K’s, he required 74 pitches to complete his four innings—that’s not efficient, or helpful for the bullpen.

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Overall, on the season, Pena has posted poor numbers for Anaheim. The right-handed hurler has posted a 5.40 ERA, 6.40 FIP, 1.500 WHIP, and 79 ERA+ across 6 2/3 innings of work, albeit a small sample size.

The young pitcher offers a simple repertoire, mostly alternating between fastballs and sliders. However, in total, the starter will throw a sinker, slider, four seam fastball, and change-up.

The Halos starter has featured the sinker 37.2% of the time this season. Interestingly, despite being used the most, it was never used in his past seasons with the Cubs. The sinker has been hit hard, allowing a terrible .600 SLGA and .300 ISO against. However, the sinking fastball has produced groundballs on 50% of balls in play.

Pena has featured his slider 34.7% of the time this season. The slider is slow, but it sweeps and drops hard towards the glove side. As a result of this great movement, the breaking ball has been responsible for half of his strikeouts—and an insane whiff rate of 57.89% of swings.

The righty has straightened batters up with a four seam fastball 19.8% of the time this season. The heater is quite fast, averaging a velocity of 94.59 mph. The four seamer has produced two strikeouts, and allowed just two hits in eight at-bats this season. Interestingly, balls put in play off the fastball have split evenly between ground balls and fly balls.

The right-hander has changed speeds on batters 8.3% of the time this season. The change has steadily risen in use rate, from 0.8% in 2016, 6.9% in 2017, and now 8.3% in 2018. The change-up is quite hard, averaging a velocity of 88.63 mph, and maintains minimal movement.

Pena looks to ground balls and strikeouts to make his outs on the field. His ground ball rate and strikeout rate, 52.6% and 25.8%, respectively, are both above average. However, both have their faults. The strikeouts have led to deep counts and a poor 9.7% BB-rate. The ground balls have been hit hard consistently this season, as he has posted a horrible 42.1% hard hit rate.

The young pitcher’s hard hit rate has come back to bite him this season. So far, in three appearances and six innings of work, the Angels starter has allowed two home runs. However, he has also allowed an unreasonable 28.6% HR/FB rate. This number should eventually drop back down. His SIERA suggests that, with expected regression, the hurler has been pitching to the skill of a 3.66 ERA.

Pena never pitched against the Blue Jays when they went to Wrigley field last year. However, some former Cardinals on the Blue Jays have experience against the Angels starter. Aledmys Diaz has taken the collar in two at-bats and Randal Grichuk has homered and struck out in the same amount of plate appearances.

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As with most young pitchers, the Blue Jays will need to work the count against Pena. With a high ground ball rate, he thrives on hitters swinging early and hitting it into the ground. If the Blue Jays are patient, they can wait for a ball to hit hard, or work a walk. As well, fresh off the birth of a new child, Sam Gaviglio will look to have a strong start in Anaheim.