The stock for Tampa Prep senior Jose Pena Jr. rose over the past year when his fastball went from the low 90-mph range to a smoking 99 mph at a state all-star game in the spring.
On Monday afternoon, Pena also rose in the draft ranks, taken by the Phillies in the sixth round with the 175th overall selection.
“I’m so happy with the way everything worked out,” said Pena, an 18-year-old who transferred from Winter Haven to Tampa Prep for the 2020-21 school year. “We are all celebrating here at the house.”
Pena, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right hander, signed with Florida International several months ago, but said Monday he was going to take the Phillies’ offer and begin his professional journey right away. The slot value for his pick is around $284,000.
In his senior year for the 9-10 Terrapins, Pena — who throws a fastball, curveball and changeup — was 2-3 with a 2.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 36.1 innings.
Tampa Prep coach A.J. Hendrix said he believes the upside looks tremendous for Pena, who “works extremely hard in every part of the game.”
“He has the potential to do some great things,” Hendrix said.
More former prep stars taken
Florida right–hander and former Sunlake High School standout Tommy Mace initially was projected to be drafted in the first three rounds a year ago, though there was a lot of uncertainty after the pandemic cut college seasons short.
When he still hadn’t been taken on the third day of the MLB amateur draft, he decided to return to the Gators for another season.
Monday, Mace was chosen 69th overall by the Cleveland Indians. This past season with the Gators, the 6-foot-6 Mace had a 6-2 record with a 4.38 ERA and 113 strikeouts through 90.1 innings.
In high school, the Tampa Bay Times’ North Suncoast Pitcher of the Year in 2017 went 8-2 with a 1.29 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings and initially was taken by the Reds in the 12th round.
He wasn’t the only local from a state college drafted.
Jefferson High product Robby Martin Jr., an outfielder at Florida State, was selected 230th overall in the eighth round by the Rockies.
Martin hit .260 with 51 RBIs for the Seminoles this past season. In his final high school year, the Times’ 2018 first-teamer helped Jefferson to a state title, hitting .457 with 23 RBIs. He also was used as a reliever and had a 0.95 ERA in 22 innings.
And in the 10th round, the Indians picked up right-handed pitcher Franco Aleman (306th overall, Alonso High). The Times’ 2018 Hillsborough County Pitcher of the Year was 9-1 with a 0.58 ERA in 12 starts as a senior (with 106 strikeouts in 76 innings).
The 6-foot-6 Aleman — who played at FIU in 2019 and St. Johns River State College in 2020 — made nine starts this past season with the Gators, with four saves over 69 innings pitched.
Additionally, former King High outfielder Justice Thompson, who hit .304 with seven home runs this past season at North Carolina, was selected by the Reds in the sixth round (180th overall).
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