Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Sammy Solis; first look



Solis finally debuts in the majors.  Photo via Natsinsider blog/Mark Zuckerman

Solis finally debuts in the majors. Photo via Natsinsider blog/Mark Zuckerman

Welcome to the majors, Sammy Solis!

We’ve been hearing about Solis for quite a while.  He was our 2nd round pick in 2010 (the same draft that also netted fellow MLB players Harper, Cole, Grace, Barrett and Robbie Ray; that’s quite a good draft), was routinely in the top 4-8 range of the Nats minor league prospects from November onwards, had some early success (2.72 ERA in his first full pro season at High-A), blew out his elbow, missed all of 2012, struggled in 2013 upon his return, barely pitched last year, and had become a forgotten man on all those prospect ranking lists.

Suddenly, he jumps AAA after throwing just four AA innings so far this year and debuts with two shutout innings against the hottest team in the NL.  Wow, what a ride.

In the previous thread, there was some doubters about his velocity showings on TV… but a gander at Pitch F/X supports the stadium gun readings.  Solis averaged 95.2 on his 13 fastballs, hitting 96.9 on his 10th pitch (a called strike 3 on the corner to end the 7th inning, perhaps his best pitch of the night).  He also threw a few curves and changes.  He was very much in the zone: 16 of 22 pitches were strikes, showing command of all three of his pitches.  He got exactly zero swings and misses though, and the Mets hitters did get some solid contact throughout his two innings.  So its probably safe to say he was a bit lucky BABIP wise on the night, and might have to work on his command a bit.  His curves seemed up; perhaps its the shape (Gio Gonzalez‘s curves are up as well), but the Mets got good swings on them.  He has a *huge* delta between his 4seamer and his change (95 to 83?  that’s big).  Is it too big; are hitters adjusting on the fly?  It also seems like Solis needs an in-between velocity pitch, something like a slider that comes in perhaps in the 90-91 range, or perhaps a cut fastball with similar velocity reduction.

His mechanics reminded me of Matt Chico; simple, straight forward, not a ton of extraneous movement .. but with a ton more velocity.  Exciting velocity frankly.  If he can nearly hit 97 from the left side, maybe we need to be thinking about him returning to a starting role?

If you want to see some video, there’s a minute long clip of some of his mechanics on with the game summary from 4/30/15.

Quick thoughts.  Feel free to chime in.

Written by Todd Boss

May 1st, 2015 at 9:44 am

16 Responses to 'Sammy Solis; first look'

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  1. You can certainly see why Rizzo has always been so infatuated with him. The skills and velocity are there.

    I’m just looking at his stats. He’s been in the minors since 2010 and has only pitched 182.1 innings over 41 games. Amazing. Or amazing bad luck, or something. He’s mostly been a starter – 37 starts in those 41 games. He’s got good career numbers, but not amazing: 3.31 ERA, 1.267 WHIP, 7.8 K/9.

    He’ll be 27 in August, so he isn’t a kid.


    1 May 15 at 10:17 am

  2. His age (he’s actually 26) and being in his 5th pro season are certainly arguments for his immediate promotion to the majors. He’s more than four years older than Harper!

    Losing the entirety of 2012 and then being mostly out 2014 didn’t help him at all. But yeah, you can dream on his stuff. 97 from the left hand side? Yeah sign me up.

    Todd Boss

    1 May 15 at 10:36 am

  3. I had always heard that his curve (a knuckle-curve, I believe) was good, but I had not been aware that he could throw 95-96+. With Rafael Martin in his debut I remember thinking “how is he getting outs? His stuff doesn’t look good ….?” Suffice it to say that wasn’t the issue with Solis.

    Given his injury history, I’d be reluctant to return him to a starter’s role. Remember Christian Garcia; 3-4 plus pitches, seemingly made for the starters’ role, but just couldn’t stay healthy when he tried. AND Garcia was electric out of the bullpen in 2012. Solis is a long way from that; he needs to show consistently show command as well as control. But I am cautiously optimistic about him in a way that I am not with Martin, no matter how inspiring Martin’s story.

    John C.

    1 May 15 at 12:01 pm

  4. Todd, who was the relief pitcher who was incredibly prone to injuries that we tried to stretch out as a starter? Is Solis the Nats learning that lesson and realizing you’re better off with this guy as a potentially really good reliever vs an out of baseball starter?


    1 May 15 at 12:47 pm

  5. Solis looked awesome, I think he is pretty much the quintessential starter who needs to be a reliever. Two pitches (if he had a 3rd I didn’t see it), trouble staying healthy, why not try to make him a lights out reliever? I wouldn’t even send him down because he doesn’t seem to be a candidate for a huge platoon splite (Hello Blake Treined!), he could be Matt Thornton Jr.. The Nats need all the help they can get in the pen and Solis’ debut was much better than Cole’s, really fun to watch.


    1 May 15 at 12:56 pm

  6. CK: I think John ID’d the guy you are trying to recall, Christian Garcia, who the Nats released from Syracuse last year. He’s still not even 30.

    If Solis can appear out of nowhere (or the gloom of Loch Ness?) after years of rumors and few actual sightings, can Matt Purke be far behind? Or is that too much to ask?

    Seriously, though, Solis looked good, with electric stuff, although as Wally noted last night, he did give up a few hard-hit balls. It’s just curious that they brought him up with so little minor-league time under his belt so far this year. Grace and Martin had shown well in the spring and had been pitching regularly at Syracuse. Solis is coming almost straight from XST.


    1 May 15 at 2:45 pm

  7. Pitch FX said three pitches, but its worth noting they had his curve and “change” at almost identical speeds. It is possible he didn’t actually have a change up.

    Todd Boss

    1 May 15 at 3:14 pm

  8. Did the Nats bring up Solis because they’re reluctant to add another person to the 40-man (aka, someone like Rich Hill)? I mean, i see two 60-day DL moves they could make right now to add two more guys to the roster for help. Why not make those moves?

    Todd Boss

    1 May 15 at 3:16 pm

  9. The whole Rich Hill thing makes no sense to me, why wouldn’t they bring him up when they DFA’d Cedeno? I don’t get it, maybe it’s a 40 man thing, but I would have thought that Cedeno would open up a spot or the 60-day DL moves you mention. He pitched well in spring too, for whatever that counts.


    1 May 15 at 3:51 pm

  10. Cedeno out made way for Martin, so that was one for one. But you’re right; i’m surprised they called on Solis before going with a MLB-experienced vet with decent AAA numbers. Who knows.

    Todd Boss

    1 May 15 at 4:13 pm

  11. Maybe they are holding spots open for potential trades. You know, like Chapman:)


    1 May 15 at 5:11 pm

  12. And the bullpen blows up again . . .

    Meanwhile, MLB has changed the Incaviglia rule, but apparently has not let the change be applied to the Turners of the world currently in limbo:


    2 May 15 at 1:41 pm

  13. Perhaps part of the reason behind pushing Solis to the big club quickly is that Thornton is suddenly looking pretty shaky.

    Very big for the grand scheme of things to get back-to-back solid games from Gio and Fister.


    3 May 15 at 7:58 pm

  14. I’ve been skeptical on Thornton. He’s 100 years old and threw ridiculously fast last year (~3 mph faster than usual) and then is back down 3-5 mph on his fastball this year. The Yanks let him go for nothing – what did they know?

    Thornton is a good pitcher, but my feeling is that we shouldn’t plan to rely on him all season. Having Grace, Solis, and Rivero behind him is a good hedge.

    Andrew R

    3 May 15 at 9:33 pm

  15. Andrew R

    3 May 15 at 9:33 pm

  16. Excellent graph AndrewR. why did his velocity only jump up in the second half of last year? Looks suspicious to me. In arguably he’s back to where he was in 2013 and 2014 … but honestly his numbers weren’t really that bad even then. It was always kind of inexplicable that the Yankees released him; his 2014 numbers with NYY were great.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell off a cliff performance wise … but he’s holding on. I mean, what is he 6th out of the 7man pen? If he falters we just go pick up another retread vet.

    Todd Boss

    4 May 15 at 11:15 am

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