Scouting Mets Prospect #27: Francisco Pena

Pena is making well-round progress

The New York Mets originally signed the son of former big league catcher Tony Pena as a free agent during the summer of 2006. Following one winter of conditioning, the organization assigned Pena straight to Low-A ball where he has remained over the last two seasons, developing his tools and learning the game. Here is a scouting report on Savannah catcher Francisco Pena.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Francisco Pena
DOB: October 12, 1989
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 230
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Status: Free Agent Signing (2006) – Dominican Republic

Even in his second full season, catcher Francisco Pena was younger than the majority of players who filled the short-season rosters, but the Mets made no bones about challenging the young backstop from the first day he arrived as a fresh faced 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic.

There was no "warming up" for the young son of former big league catcher Tony Pena as he was thrust right into long-season ball in his 2007 rookie season. He returned to Low-A ball following his .210/5 HR/30 RBI debut, but immediately impressed Kingsport manager Pedro Lopez who worked individually with Pena before beginning his own assignment.

"It was the first time I saw him catch, but after some of the stuff I heard about him, I thought he did a tremendous job overall. He worked really hard on his throwing which was supposed to be an issue, but he got more consistent with his mechanics," Lopez said.

The top priority with Pena throughout the season was building his defensive skills. When he arrived, coaches threw out essentially everything he knew about catching and went to work on fundamentals. His throwing motion was first on the docket.

"We made sure to keep him in the throwing program because he's always had a strong arm, but that wasn't our concern. Our concern was more about being quicker with his release and that his legs were underneath him when he was throwing and that he wasn't get out in front too far when he threw the ball," Lopez explained.

" He worked really hard on his throwing which was supposed to be an issue, but he got more consistent with his mechanics," he added.

The next step was to work on his mobility. Listed at 230 pounds, Pena's size limited his range and quickness, but with better conditioning and improved technique he cut down on the amount of passed balls and other tough hops that plagued him in 2007.

"For a big kid, he does a tremendous job moving behind the plate. He moves well whether it was blocking or receiving," said Lopez. "He did a much better job of blocking balls, receiving and framing pitches, all things that go into his mobility. He did a really good job in Savannah."

On the other side of the ball, coaches just wanted to keep it simple with Pena. Though he has potential for very good power in the future, they stressed the basics with their catcher from which he can build the rest of his game. Lopez did not have hand in Pena's work at the plate, but offered his observations.

"I think he's going to hit for power, and right now he's only 18-19 years old and he knows he's got a little bit of pop which gets him in trouble sometimes. But every young ball player goes through that."

" From my observation, he needs to stay within himself and stay up the middle as his power will be the last thing to develop. I just think he, as a young player, likes to get out in front of that fastball and that got him trouble early on," Lopez detailed.

With a positive season under his belt, all the organization wants to see from Pena is progress. His talents are masked by his youth, but in time with greater experience and opportunity, Pena's promise should come to fruition.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2008

Savannah

.264

397

105

6

41

34

0

25

95

.308

.380

2007

Savannah

.210

367

77

5

30

26

1

24

76

.263

.283



Batting and Power: Pena has plus raw power and he will hit more home runs as he continues to build his swing, but most of his power is to the pull side. His approach still needs a lot of work and he took the first steps to get there by maturing an up-the-middle swing. He still lacks a consistent opposite field stroke, but he improved his ability to hit secondary pitches which is a good first step to hitting the other way. Lack of plate discipline still raises some flags, but it should improve with greater experience as for now coaches just want to see Pena hit.

Base Running and Speed: Pena is by no means a threat on the bases as he is a station-to-station runner who lacks the speed to create his own opportunities. He has trouble advancing two bases on a routine play, but is making the most of what he has by learning better execution and technique.

Defense: When Pena entered the organization, he was completely new to the demands of catching at the professional level. However, he made strides this past season by improving his flexibility and footwork which helped cut down on the amount of passed balls and increased his mobility. He possesses a strong throwing arm and gets out of his crouch in good time, but continues to work on synchronizing his delivery for better accuracy. He does a much better job of framing his pitches while honing his game-calling skills and working with the pitching staff.

Projection: At the moment, there is no real positive or negative correlation between Pena's statistics and his future success until he turns 21 years old, so he still has a couple more seasons before the true nature of his skills can be firmly projected. He improved his strength and conditioning this past season, but they are factors that will be closely monitored as he develops. The early signs are still very favorable for Pena, but he must continue to demonstrate measured improvements to get to the big leagues at least as a backup. But he has the pedigree and early developed skills to be a starter at the highest levels.

ETA: 2012. Following a second-straight season in Savannah and the pace at which his tools have progressed, we stay conservative and push Pena's arrival back one year. He should open the year as the starter in St. Lucie and figure the Mets will not rush Pena who will spend the entire upcoming season as a 19-year-old. That will give him enough time to slowly but surely work his way through the system towards a debut at the start of 2012.

InsidePitchMagazine.com Recommended Stories