The Padres announced their list of non-roster invitees today, and among several previously reported names (e.g. Brett Wallace, Scott Elbert, Jose Valverde, Jason Lane and Marcos Mateo) was the news that the team had signed Ramiro Pena to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training.
Pena, 29, has spent the past two seasons with the Braves, batting a combined .258/.315/.385 over the course of 272 plate appearances, although his 2013 numbers were considerably better than his 2014 numbers. Pena, who has also spent parts of four seasons with the Yankees, is experienced at second base, third base and shortstop, having totaled at least 339 big league innings at each of the positions. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating feel that his best positions are third base and shortstop, where he’s well above-average and average, respectively, though the sample size of his work at all three positions is too small to represent a truly accurate level of his defensive capabilities.
The Padres have a good deal of uncertainty around the infield, and Pena should provide them insurance. Will Middlebrooks and Yangervis Solarte will compete at third base, though Middlebrooks will need to prove that he is healthy an can cut down on his strikeouts to cement himself as a regular. Jedd Gyorko figures to man second base, but he’s coming off a dreadful season in which he slumped to a .210/.280/.333 batting line just one season after looking like a Rookie of the Year candidate. At shortstop, Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes are the top in-house options, and neither brings much upside at the plate, though Barmes is an excellent defender.
The Padres also announced that catcher Griff Erickson and right-hander Jay Jackson have been signed to minor league deals and invited to camp. Jackson, a former top prospect with the Cubs, struggled to a 4.93 ERA in 111 innings with the Triple-A affiliates for the Pirates and Brewers in 2014. The 27-year-old struck out 115 batters against 52 walks last year. Erickson, meanwhile, has spent his whole career with the Dodgers and batted an impressive .297/.384/.510 in his first extended taste of Triple-A action last season (60 games), though the standard disclaimer about the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should be applied to those statistics.