November 21, 2017

Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prospects: No. 8 Sammy Solis

In this series, District Sports Page has provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here. We will now move into even further detailed reports for our Top 10.

Here’s our scouting reports on prospects Nos. 21-15, prospects Nos. 16-20 and Nos. 11-16.

And so far in the Top 10:

No. 10 Eury Perez
No. 9 Jake Johansen

Now without further ado, here is prospect No. 8, left-handed pitcher Sammy Solis.

8. Sammy Solis
Bats: Right, Throws: Left
Height: 6′ 5″, Weight: 230 lb.
Born: August 10, 1988 in Litchfield Park, Arizona, US (Age 25)
Draft: Second Round, 2010

Fastball Velocity Fb Movement Fb Command Knuckle Curve Change Off Spd Cmd Delivery Overall Future Potential
55/55 60/60 55/60 45/50 55/60 50/55 Average MLB Starter

Solis hasn’t pitched above high-A ball, but he’s ready for a Major League job. In terms of ability, he’s been ready for years, but injuries have seriously stalled his career and have lowered the organizations expectations for him somewhat.

Solis is a smart pitcher and has consistently been more advanced than his peers at every level, dating back to his high school days in Arizona. Solis was an outstanding amateur pitcher, totaling a 25-8 record during his Agua Fria High School career and his 358 strikeouts are second-most in Arizona 4A history. A week prior to participating in the ’06 Area Code Games, Solis was busy leading his team to victory in the Connie Mack World Series. He struck out 12 batters in Game 2, and then tossed a four-hit shutout in the championship.

He passed on the MLB after high school and went on to a dominant career in San Diego. He made the WCC All-Conference team as a freshman before missing a season to undergo back surgery. He rebounded nicely though, and finished off his college career with a superb 2009-2010 season. He went  9-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched, for a juggernaut Toreros team that went 19-2 in the WCC.

The Nationals drafted Solis in the second round back in 2010handing him an over-slot $1 million bonus. At the time, the organization believed his polished repertoire, intelligence and spotless makeup would get him to the Majors in a couple of seasons. Injuries have slowed down his timetable considerably and Solis is now preparing to celebrate his 26th birthday without throwing a pitch in the high minors.

Solis’ pro career has been impressive. He’s not flashy, but in 160.1 pro innings he has posted a 3.20 ERA, 3.31 K/BB ratio, a nice 2/1 groundball/flyball ratio and only 11 total home runs allowed. He returned from Tommy John surgery last May and ended up putting together a pretty nice 2013 campaign with the Potomac Nationals. He came back throwing harder than he had pre-surgery, and he posted  a solid 2.57 ERA through his first 57 innings before getting blown up for dix runs in his final start.

Solis has had to overcome two serious injuries in four years. He first had to undergo back surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back while at San Diego. Then, after battling discomfort during his AFL stint in the 2011-2012 offseason, he went under the knife for reconstructive elbow surgery. Though his stuff hasn’t suffered too much, his delivery has stiffened significantly, leaving his mechanics and timing much worse off. His injury history and mechanical flaws, combined with the Nationals rotation depth almost certainly ticket him for the bullpen.

Solis’ best assets are his intelligence and feel for pitching. He’s a crafty southpaw that uses his three-quarters delivery and natural two-plane break on his off-speed stuff to work the inside and outside edges of the strikezone. He has great fastball command, and is proficient at running his tailing two-seamer away from righties and forcing week contact. He spots his heater in all four quadrants of the zone, and is very effective working the bottom edges with quality strikes in the 90-93 mph range. He’ll also throw a cutter from time to time on the hands of right-handed batters.

Solis can run his fastball up to 94 mph when he wants to max out, but he’s most effective spotting his heater in the low 90’s, working his two-seamer in and using his changeup to keep opposing hitters off balance. His plus changeup is his best secondary pitch, and it shows nice two-seam fade. He has solid command of the pitch, and is comfortable throwing it in any count, making it extremely difficult for hitters to know what’s coming and put a confident swing on the ball. His changeup arm speed and release is visibly identical to his heater, and he throws between 81-85 mph.

Solis’ curveball has developed into a solid pitch and now rates as MLB-average. It’s still a little bit short, but he throws it with nice, firm two-plane break and it’s deceptive out of his three-quarters arm slot. His lack of an effective breaking ball made him more susceptible to left-handed hitters earlier in his career, but he did a better job closing his platoon split last season.

Solis has the package to be a quality mid-rotation starter, or a strong reliever in the big leagues. His three-pitch arsenal plays up because of his command and pitching IQ, and he’s lauded for his makeup and ability to make his pitches in the clutch. However, Solis’ mechanics have deteriorated from a strong point to a red flag. He’s very good at repeating his delivery, but he has stiffened up — presumably from back and elbow injuries. He has a short stride, forcing him to rely on his upper-body for power, and his timing is visibly out of sync. His arm lags behind his body, putting a lot of extra pressure on his shoulder and elbow.

Solis is traditionally more effective against right-handed hitters than lefties, which doesn’t endorse him for a bullpen role. His injury history and delivery problems also make it more difficult to project him as a starter long-term. However, his stuff is above-average for a left-hander, as is his command and control. He’s definitely a big league pitcher, and he looks ready, but the Nationals will have to figure out what to do with him this spring.

About Ryan Kelley

Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s an economist by day and an aspiring journalist living in the D.C. area. Native to Connecticut, he has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has covered Minor League Baseball and Team USA. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @BBNewsHound.

Comments

  1. Ernie Salazar says:

    Lots of factual inaccuracies in this report. I have followed this kid since he was in high school. Solis has never had back surgery. He rehabbed his back after injuring it during supervised weight training at USD. He weighs 250, not 230. He had 398 strike outs in high school, not 358. He throws 2 curve balls — a traditional curve and a knuckle curve. He therefore has 4 pitches, not 3. He has pitched in the prestigious Arizona Fall League 3 times, winning the championship game in 2010 and leading the league in strikeouts and wins in 2013 — hardly the stuff of a guy who hasn’t faced big time hitters. He impressed in spring training, giving up no runs in 4 innings. I expect him to help the Nationals in 2014.

    Nice to have these reports but it would be nice if they were not filled with inaccurate information. Go Nats!

  2. Ernie Salazar says:

    It’s nice to see these reports but this one has many inaccuracies. I have been following Solis since high school — he’s a local kid on the westside of Phoenix. Solis struck out 398 in high school, not 358. He never had back surgery — he just rehabbed after a supervised weightlifting injury at San Diego. He has faced lots of good hitters — he pitched 3 times in prestigious Arizona Fall League, winning the championship game in 2010 and leading the league in strike outs and wins in 2013. He gave up no runs in four innings in Major League spring training this year and hitters batted just .214 against him this spring. Obviously, he has proved he can compete against higher competition. I have no doubt the kid will help the Nats in 2014. He throws as hard as Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez and has very good command.

    • Dave Nichols says:

      Ernie, thanks for your comments. The strikeout total was a typo, it should indeed say 398 instead of 358.

    • Ernie, you’re incorrect. Solis did have surgery on his back: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/28/nationals-sammy-solis-tommy-john-surgery-prospect/

      “He also underwent surgery for a herniated disc in 2009 while still in college.”

      Before you start stating that there’s a bunch of factual inaccuracies in an article, please be courteous enough to check your own facts to make sure that you are the one that’s not inaccurate.

      There was 1 typo on 1 statistic: 358 vs. 398.

      As far as the scouting report goes, he’s graded on a fastball, a breaking pitch and a changeup. It’s poor methodology to start getting into the differences between fifteen different fastball and curveball types. That’s semantics. You could nitpick and argue that every pitch is different and there’s thousands of variants. Solis throws at three speeds, and has three pitches with three different breaks. His 2-seam and 4-seam fastball are graded as a pair, which is typical, and the fastball movement pertains to his 2-seam break. 4-seamers are effective due to their straightness and pure speed. This isn’t meant to be a debate about the difference between a slurve, a curve, a sweeping curve, a spike curve, blah blah.

      And, he doesn’t throw as hard as Detwiler and Gonzalez do. Solis, when he starts, sits 89-92 on a calibrated gun directly behind it’s target. Detwiler and Gonzalez sit higher at regular speed and max out 3-4 mph faster when they’re healthy. Solis can’t sustain 94 mph velocity with command during his starts. Reports stating the he can hit 97 are misleading. Of course he can hit 97–that’s a safe bet for any starting pitcher throwing in the 90’s. But he can’t pitch at the velocity effectively. Tanner Roark can max out at 97, but when you watch him start, he’s at 90-92…And spring training and stadium guns report 2-3 mph faster, especially on young, fragile arms.

      Also, I never said anywhere that he doesn’t have experience against “higher competition.” That’s a very vague phrase, especially out of context. I said that he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the high minors (as of the date when I wrote this piece). And that was correct. The AFL is a winter league. Does spring training count too? When we say high-minors, we refer to double-A and above.

      My report was very positive on Solis, and if you’ve kept track of my writing, I was one of the first on him. I graded him as a top-100 prospect well before mainstream publications did and posted some of the earliest footage of him pitching.

      Thanks.

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