On Friday afternoon the Chicago Cubs promoted right-handed pitcher Felix Pena to the major league roster, replacing Justin Grimm who was sent down to Triple-A Iowa. Here’s a quick take on what to expect.
Pena was originally signed by the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic back in 2008. He made a slow but steady progression through the farm system as a starting pitcher, seldom ranking among the club’s best prospects but holding his own and outlasting many more heralded arms.
He had a decent year in Double-A in 2015 (3.75 ERA, 140/49 K/BB in 130 innings) then converted to the bullpen in 2016 with positive results: 3.41 ERA in 63 innings in Triple-A, with an 81/23 K/BB ratio. He got a brief trial with the Cubs last year, giving up four runs in nine innings with a 13/3 K/BB.
Pena was rated as a Grade C prospect pre-season, unranked among the Top 20 Chicago Cubs prospects for 2017. This season has gone well so far, 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings at Iowa, and here he is back in the majors.
Listed at 6-2, 185, Pena is 27 years old, born February 25, 1990. As a starter his fastball was right around 91 MPH but in the bullpen he’s a bit higher than that, 91-93 with peaks at 95. He can mix in a pretty good slider and a softer curve, but his secondaries are considered nothing special on their own. That said, he throws strikes and the entire gestalt looks like it can work nicely out of the bullpen.
Here’s one of his better breaking pitches: