Prospect Retro for Carlos Pena
Carlos Pena was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round of the 1998 draft, from Northeastern University, 10th overall. Assigned to Class A Savannah, he hit .325/.370/.598 in 30 games, although his BB/K/AB ratio was not impressive at 8/26/117. Still, his overall production was excellent, and scouts were also happy with his defense at first base. I didn't give letter grades to first-round picks in the 1999 Minor League Scouting Notebook, but he would probably get a B+ nowadays.
Pena spent all of 1999 with Charlotte in the Florida State League, hitting just .255. But he did knock 18 homers, drive in 103 runs, and draw 74 walks. He also struck out 135 times in 136 games. I gave him a Grade B in the '00 book, commenting that "Pena will develop into a solid regular but I don't know if he'll become a star."
Promoted to Double-A Tulsa in 2000, he broke out with an excellent .299/.414/.533 season, 28 homers, 101 walks, 108 strikeouts in 529 at-bats. He improved his walk rate, cut his strikeouts, and was an all-around devastating hitter. I gave him the rare and coveted pure Grade A rating, and rated him as the Number Seven prospect in baseball.
Up to Triple-A in '01, he hit .288/.408/.550 in 119 games, then .258/.361/.500 in 22 games with the Rangers. He had some nagging injuries that hurt his production in the first half, but he went on a huge tear in July and August, boosting his end-of-season numbers. I kept him at Grade A entering 2002.
'02 was a chaotic year for Pena. He got traded to Oakland, hit just .218 in 40 games, then was shipped to Detroit. He's now had three seasons in a Tigers uniform, showing very good power, but hitting less than .250. In 1539 career at-bats through August 25th, Pena is hitting .242/.331/.454. He has enough power to be dangerous, but he strikes out a lot, and hasn't shown the same sort of balanced hitting skills he did in the minors. Even his defense has been less effective than it was in the minors. At age 27, he should be entering his peak seasons. Can he improve from where he is today? Or is this another example of an old-player-skill prospect aging poorly?
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