After all these years, Wily Mo Pena remains equal parts brute strength and brutal plate discipline. The six-foot-three, 270+ pound specimen, once a prime prospect for his ability to hit home runs that make Robert Redford's shot in The Natural look like a cheapie, never learned how to control the strike zone and is now fighting to prove he belongs in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks. So far, Wily Mo has lived up to his reputation by hitting majestic homers but also swinging at anything within the Four Corners states.
In 40 at-bats with the D-Backs, Pena has cracked five home runs. But alas, he has punched out 18 times without drawing a single walk. Look at Pena's swing rate with Arizona:
Talk about an eyes-to-ankles strike zone. Pena has lunged at 44 percent of pitches thrown off the plate, a clip close to the likes of Vlad Guerrero. Not surprisingly, pitchers just plain aren't throwing Pena strikes: 39 percent of the pitches that he has seen have been within the zone, compared to the 49 percent league average.
But oh, how beautiful those home runs are! Pena's five shots have traveled an average distance of 425 feet. To put that in perspective, Greg Rybarczyk's Home Run Tracker site shows that the average homer distance in the majors this year is 395 feet.
Believe it or not, Pena won't turn 30 until next January. He's so fun to watch and his power is so tantalizing that you just wish some hitting coach would lock him in a video room, A Clockwork Orange-style, until he'd stop chasing pitches two feet off the dish. But, barring such aversion therapy, Pena figures to continue frustrating talent evaluators with his awesome power and putrid plate approach.