Nationals Arm Race

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

First Look: Sammy Solis


Sammy Solis pitching in high school. Photo

Sammy Solis (pronounced Soo-lease) was the Nats 2nd round pick in the June amateur draft.  Some pundits questioned whether we’d be able to sign him as the August 15th deadline approached.  However, we got his deal done for slightly above slot (along with a couple other question marks in AJ Cole and Robbie Ray, both of whom got far above slot for 4th and 12th rounders respectively).

After putting in a couple of scoreless (albeit abbreviated) starts in Hagerstown, we sent him off to the AFL.  He got the start in the AFL championship game today, and this being the first time this Nats fan got a chance to look at him we tuned in.  His team Scottsdale ended up winning the game 3-2 to win the championship.

Observations: he has a pretty easy arm motion.  He has a low three-quarters arm slot, almost sidearm.  The left-hander brings a variable speed fastball that goes from 91-92 to speeds in the 97 range. He has been working on a cut-fastball, which would explain the low-90s version of the fastball versus the high-end ball.  He has a side-arm curve in the mid-70s mpg range that he sometimes struggled to keep in the zone (one of the criticisms of Solis is that his curve isn’t sharp enough, probably because of the arm slot resulting in more of a “slurve” instead of a nice breaking curve).  He definitely has gained significant speed on his fastball since his days at U. San Diego, at least if you trust this scouting report or this one and if you trust the gun on TV.  Keith Law liked him in college and predicts a quick rise through the minors. I didn’t necessarily too many change-ups, which is too bad since reportedly it is a plus pitch for him but isn’t out of character for an amateur-recently-turned-pro pitcher.

He benefited on the day from a rather large strike zone (getting Dustin Ackley on a called 3rd strike in the first that may have been slightly up and away) but he definitely showed some dominance over a strong lineup.  He got the side in order in the first, gave up a walk and a broken bat single in the second.  He got a double-play ball that was thrown away giving up a run in the 2nd (the run is earned despite the error on the double play attempt).  In the 3rd he worked the first hitter well, fooling him on a change-up and then striking him out w/ a nice curve before getting the next two guys on a deep flyball and a grounder to short.  He works fast, he’s always around the strike zone and he looked pretty comfortable on the mound.

In the 4th he got Ackley down 0-2 but then gave up a single to left to the AFL’s leading hitter and MVP and (arguably) closest prospect to the majors.  Solis showed some decent moves to first, showing a conventional and a quick-throw over, nearly picking Ackley off at one point.  He gave up another single after getting the count worked to 3-2 against Peoria’s cleanup hitter Ryan Lavarnway.  Eventually he leaked a 2nd run after another error in the infield.  He left the game with the lead after his team got him a run in the bottom of the 4th.  I can’t say that anyone really got “good wood” on him all day; the best hit balls being one deep flyball and perhaps the two singles in the fourth.

The Scottsdale Scorpions featured no less than four Nats in the starting lineup (Steve Lombardozzi, Derek Norris and Bryce Harper) with a couple more prospects (Adam Carr and Cole Kimball)  in the bullpen.  Norris legged out a deep grounder to 3rd that probably was an error but showed some great speed for a catcher.  He also got himself into scoring position with some heads up base-running before getting driven in by a sac fly in the 2nd.  Lombardozzi ripped a double in the 4th to give his team the lead.  Kimball pitched a 1-2-3 9th and showed a 98-mph fastball with good secondary pitches, further proof that he has a realistic chance to make the Nats bullpen in 2011.

Harper hit the first pitch he saw, going with a fastball outside and up and driving it through the right side of the field to drive in a run.  Definitely a nice swing but continues his trend of swinging early in the count.  One thing the Nats will definitely ask him to work on is patience at the plate in the minors next year.  That being said, it is awfully hard to criticize a known baseball rat who sat the entire summer and only got to play twice a week in the AFL for his patience at the plate.  In each subsequent at bat he also went up hacking at the first pitch.  In the 4th he popped up to right.  In his third AB he again swung at the first pitch and missed badly on a curve.  He then missed just as badly on two more similar curves, striking out.  And in his last at bat he K’d again after fouling a couple pitches off.

Conclusions: well, its hard not to be excited about the slew of Nats prospects in this game overall, and by Solis in particular.  He wasn’t Strasburg-esque in terms of dominance but he controlled the zone and seemed comfortable on the mound against the Minor’s best.  I can see him starting 2011 in Potomac and quickly moving up to Harrisburg, with an eye for a debut in 2012.  Norris is the real deal and I’m beginning to see why Law believes Norris is our “catcher of the future” and not Ramos or even Flores at this point.  Kimball gives the Nats something we really don’t have; a serious power arm to bring in to game in the 6th or 7th to shut down rallies.  Lombardozzi seems undersized but, well, he’s a middle infielder, and we all know who and what Harper is capable of.

Can we just fast forward to 2012? on

4 Responses to 'First Look: Sammy Solis'

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  1. I agree that things are looking up for the Nationals. Solis made six starts in the AFL and the Scorpions won them all. If the main purpose of a starting pitcher is to give your team a chance to win, then Solis is your guy. His team won 12 of his 14 starts in college this year and the Scorpions gave him 6 out of 6, making him 18 out of 20 for the year. His ERA in the AFL (3.58) was lower than Strasburg (4.24 in the AFL in 09) or his college teammate Brian Matusz, now on the O’s (4.74 in 08). While he will not blow anyone away with his stuff, the exceptional movement on all his pitches seems to make a big difference.

    Ernie Salazar

    21 Nov 10 at 4:15 pm

  2. The narrators spend too much time on just a few players. There are others that played very well and should have been noticed. Also,the two teams earned the right to be on national TV and it was their day, Tommy LaSorda took too much time away from the game.


    21 Nov 10 at 5:05 pm

  3. I’ll agree with you Espe, about the “star gazing” of the announcers of that game.

    I watched the game mostly on fast forward so I didn’t get the Lasorda over-indulgence.

    I hope to see Solis zip through the system, perhaps being promoted in step with Harper. 2012 isn’t a bad goal for either on the big roster.

    Todd Boss

    22 Nov 10 at 2:23 pm

  4. Solis has that nice easy motion you like to see, especially in lefties. He looks polished and has command. He’ll be in the majors soon.

    Despite the ks, Harper is very promising. Hard to believe an 18 year old competing at this level.

    Gary Boss

    23 Nov 10 at 9:04 pm

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