It wasn’t a key re-signing or a much-needed offensive upgrade, but the Kansas City Royals did add another man to their MLB roster. The team reached out to Francisco Pena Sunday morning and added him to the 40-man roster. Pena, now 24, is the brother of former Royals shortstop Tony Pena Jr. and the son of former team manager Tony Pena. For whatever reason, the Royals love that Pena lineage, but was it wise to add Francisco to the Major League roster?
It depends on how you feel about the Royals’ other options for backup catcher. Last year’s best candidate for playing behind Salvador Perez was 29-year old Brett Hayes. His 162 game average would give the Royals 27 doubles and 10 home runs next year, and his defensive skills are average at worst. Pena has yet to see MLB playing time, but in 68 games with the New York Mets‘ Triple-A affiliate last year he hit .257 with 22 doubles, nine homers and 39 RBI. While catching in 57 of those games, he caught 15-of-50 runners attempting to steal and committed only four errors.
The Royals’ highest rated prospect at that position is the 21-year old Zane Evans. Zane caught plenty of attention with a .352/.394/.537 line in his rookie year, but he’ll need more than 41 games in the Rookie League to be ready for the big leagues.
I almost forgot to mention George Kottaras, probably because his offensive production in 2013 was so forgettable. Kottaras hit .180 with four doubles and five home runs last year.
If Pena’s offensive output at the AAA level translates to the majors he will prove to be the Royals’ best fit for backup catcher. His batting shows potential, and his youth makes him inexpensive and valuable. With the Royals trying to save money anywhere they can it would be no surprise to see them forgo paying for Hayes or Kottaras, who are both arbitration eligible and possible non-tender candidates.