The Houston Astros have an abundance of young arms, seemingly able to find them growing on trees every season.
But just because there are many, there are a few who stand out above the rest, and that includes the subject of this week’s Skeeters Spotlight feature – right-handed pitcher Peter Solomon. I got the chance to see Solomon in Spring Training in 2019, and came away more than impressed.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Solomon was initially drafted in the 21st round by the San Diego Padres out of high school in 2014, but wound up passing on the offer and choosing to play collegiately at the University of Notre Dame. He then posted a 3.85 ERA in three seasons with the Fighting Irish, leading to the Astros selecting him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft.
Following a stellar pro debut in 2018, during which he posted a 2.32 ERA in 100.2 innings across two levels, Solomon underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 before COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 season for all prospects
Despite all of that, however, he entered the 2021 season as the Astros’ 12th-ranked overall prospect and the organization’s sixth-ranked pitching prospect. Solomon has a 3.86 ERA in seven starts since the beginning of July, striking out 48 hitters and allowing opponents just a .597 OPS against him.
On the surface, it’s tough to get a gauge on Solomon. Due to the arm surgery and cancelled 2020 season, that’s almost two full years of potential development that became lost for the young right-hander, who turned 25 years old on Monday.
But the Astros also showed a tremendous vote of confidence in the young man when Solomon, who is protected on the club’s 40-man roster, was selected to the major league roster briefly earlier this season when the bullpen was ravaged by overuse and inconsistency. He made two appearances on April 14 and April 16, then one additional appearance on July 1.
The lost 2020 season may have been a blessing in disguise for Solomon in hindsight, as it allowed him ample time to recover from Tommy John and regain his strength. Before the surgery, scouting reports had him sitting 92-96 MPH with his fastball with a low-to-mid-80s curveball and slider along with a changeup. So far this season in Triple-A West with Sugar Land, he has been sitting in the mid-90s with the fastball and in the same range with his off-speed pitches.
During his brief three-outing stint at the MLB level, he was heavy on the fastball (61.4 percent usage), and averaged almost 94 MPH. His curve (19.3 percent usage) was at 79 MPH on average, while the slider and changeup both sat 83-84 MPH.
So it does not appear as though velocity is the issue for Solomon, which is always one of the first things to check for when a pitcher returns from Tommy John. And unlike many recent hard-throwing Astros hurlers, he appears to have remedied his command issues as his pro career progresses. After walking 5.3 hitters per nine innings at Notre Dame, that rate has fallen to 3.3 BB/9 during his two full seasons as a pro.
And all the while, the career strikeout rate of 10.7 K/9 is consistent with his college mark (10.4/9). This season at Sugar Land, he has punched out 89 in 72.2 innings, good for 11 K/9 in 16 appearances. So the swing-and-miss ability has not diminished either, while he has a reputation for maintaining his velocity deep into outings.
Prediction: While Solomon has the makings of a middle or back-of-rotation starter, his path to becoming a major league regular appears murky, with four current Astros starters – Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Lance McCullers, Jr. and Luis Garcia – all under team control for at least several more seasons.
That said, he appears to be a candidate for a bullpen that could be very much in flux to begin the 2022 season, as it has multiple key cogs set to hit the open market as free agents. You can count on seeing him at the big league level regularly beginning next season, likely as a multi-inning reliever and spot starter.
Mashing Matijevic: Infielder J.J. Matijevic went on a power surge last week, winding up 6 for 20 with four extra-base hits and four RBIs. He is second on the team with 10 homers so far this season.
Stubbs shines: Catching prospect Garrett Stubbs was an on-base machine, reaching base in 11 of his 22 plate appearances last week, including drawing six walks. Stubbs leads all current Skeeters with a .419 OBP.
Just Joshin’: Josh James, who is on a major league rehabilitation assignment, threw three scoreless innings of relief last week. He allowed just one hit across three appearances, striking out six hitters without a walk.
Last week’s scores
August 9: Round Rock 7, Sugar Land 5
August 10: Round Rock 8, Sugar Land 7
August 12: Sugar Land 5, Albuquerque 5
August 13: Albuquerque 5, Sugar Land 4
August 14: Albuquerque 4, Sugar Land 3