Photo courtesy of Minda Haas
After the Royals tied the Athletics on Friday, they optioned catcher Francisco Pena, pitcher Michael Mariot, and infielder Christian Colon to AAA Omaha, as first reported by Josh Vernier. There are now 38 players remaining in major league camp.
None of the three were expected to break camp with the big league club, although Mariot and Colon will likely both contribute at some point this season. Mariot is coming off a terrific season for the Storm Chasers, in which he struck out 9.8 batters per 9 innings and had a 3.56 ERA in 60.2 innings out of the bullpen. He relies on a sinking fastball that sits around 91 MPH and a slider that he uses as his out pitch. Mariot will occasionally mix in a curveball and changeup, but as a reliever, he doesn’t really need to use those as often. I expect to see Mariot get a handful of innings in Kansas City this summer, as he’ll likely only be needed when the bullpen is going through a taxing stretch. Until that happens, Mariot will be Omaha’s closer.
Colon may have had an outside shot at the team’s utility role, but since the Royals don’t plan on having an actual utility player, there was no place to fit Colon into the roster. He’s been far from impressive in his first 4 professional seasons, but Colon should still be able to provide some value as an average defender up the middle. He’ll never be a high on-base guy, but he does have decent contact skills and the potential for a bit of gap power. In other words, he doesn’t have an incredibly high ceiling, although most of his tools are respectable enough to earn some money in the big leagues as a bench player at least. And even though the Royals are planning on not having a backup middle infielder to start the year, they’re going to need one at some point, and Colon is probably going to be the first man called upon, since he can play both shortstop and second base adequately.
Pena was signed to a major league deal after he became a minor league free agent early in the offseason. The son of former Royals’ manager Tony Pena, the young catcher has had a disappointing start to his professional career, never posting an OPS above .730 in any year since he was signed before the 2007 season. However, Pena’s potential is as a strong defensive backstop with a good arm. Obviously the Royals want to see some more offense, but let’s face it, they hope they never have to rely on Pena for anything at the major league level, because if they do need him, something bad probably happened to Salvador Perez, and I don’t want to even imagine that scenario. Pena will likely split time behind the plate in Omaha with Ramon Hernandez this season, if Hernandez doesn’t win the big league backup catcher job.