Due to a hand injury to Salvador Perez that will keep him out of action for a couple of days, the Royals have called up catcher Francisco Pena from Omaha to provide the big league club with another backstop until Perez can return. To make room for Pena, Johnny Giavotella has been optioned back to Triple-A Omaha.
Pena, the son of former Royals’ manager Tony Pena and brother of former Royals’ shortstop-relief pitcher Tony Pena, Jr., was acquired this winter after spending his first 7 professional seasons in the Mets’ organization. Known more for his defensive prowess, Pena has shown quite a bit of power for the Storm Chasers this season, hitting 9 home runs in only 111 plate appearances, and posting an isolated slugging percentage of .300. He hasn’t gotten on base frequently (.309 OBP), and his numbers suggest he doesn’t make consistently solid contact, but that kind of power, even after adjusting for the hitter-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League, is a nice thing to see from a catcher.
In the limited time I watched Pena this year, he seemed to move well behind the plate, blocking quite a few buried breaking balls. While I didn’t get a great chance to see his arm strength, most reports indicate that’s his biggest strength. If he can translate some of his offensive success to the major league level, Pena could provide a bit more value than Brett Hayes as the backup catcher. Granted, that is certainly a sizable “if.”
As for Giavotella, it was likely only a matter of time before he was sent back to Omaha in favor of Omar Infante, and with the way he’s been hitting in the last few games – that is, not well – it’s understandable for the team to make this move. I probably would have sent Mike Moustakas down instead, but that’s a discussion we’ve had 20 times over. Pedro Ciriaco will starting at second base until Infante returns from the disabled list.
Once Perez is ready for game action, either Hayes or Pena will have to be let go. If Pena is impressive, Hayes would need to be designated for assignment, as the latter is currently out of options.