Part of a unique 2017 Astros class, Peter Solomon was drafted alongside college teammate Brandon Bielak as a fourth-round selection by Houston. Solomon had been a fairly high profile prep player who drew attention for his ideal frame and some high octane stuff, but he never really figured out strike throwing as a collegiate, which caused a slide into the middle rounds. The Astros were excited to get him though, and felt they could quickly correct some mechanical issues to get his location on track.
The team ended up being correct, as Solomon turned a lot of heads in his pro debut. Assigned to Low-A Quad Cities in 2018 to start his career in earnest, Solomon struck out 88 batters in 77 and 2⁄3 innings, and limited opposing offenses to a 2.43 ERA. He earned a promotion to High-A Fayetteville with this effort, and continued to frustrate opposing hitters with a similar strikeout rate and 1.96 ERA across 23 more innings. Following the successful campaign, Solomon vaulted up organizational rankings and many evaluators were able to see a future starter in him, where in the past his command struggles would’ve suggested the bullpen as a long term home.
Unfortunately, Solomon’s ascent hit a snag in 2019 when he returned to Fayetteville to open the year. He was dominating on the mound through two outings, striking out 14 in 7 and 2⁄3 innings, but that would end up as his season innings total as he had to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery not long after. It was a tough pill to swallow for Solomon and the Astros alike, as in just two short years he’d been able to make the adjustments necessary to transform from a high-upside lottery ticket into one of the more promising potential starters in the organization.
Information was scarce on Solomon for much of 2019, as the nature of his injury wasn’t made public until months after it occurred, leaving many guessing on his status. Things have come into focus a bit more lately, though- Solomon was Rule 5 eligible this year, and the Astros made the decision recently to add him to their 40 man roster to protect him from selection. This is an indication that the team is happy with his rehab, as if there were any questions on the medicals, they probably would’ve been safe using the roster spot another way. Supporting this further, Brian McTaggart recently caught up with Solomon in a piece for MLB.com, where the young pitcher provided some details on his recovery. By all accounts Solomon is feeling great, and he reports that he’s sitting 94-95 with his fastball post-surgery, which is actually a minor improvement.
Solomon’s profile is a pretty complete one at this stage. The mid-90s heat keeps hitters on their heels, and his bending breaking balls sport good movement while tunneling effectively off the heater. While he may have looked like a reliever during his college days, that was never a product of a narrow arsenal, and he’s only improved in that regard as a pro. His changeup has come along just as the Astros hoped when they selected him, and at this stage most feel that he has the requisite weapons to get outs against hitters from both sides of the plate. Watching the professional version of Solomon pitch, it’s kind of a surprise that he wasn’t more effective at the college level, and that he was available where the Astros ended up acquiring him, in what will go down as one of Jeff Luhnow’s last good picks as a GM. We’ll have to get a better look at the post-surgery version of Solomon to make firmer projections on him, but I’d be comfortable giving him a #4 starter ceiling based on what we know now.
A healthy Solomon entering 2020 is a big boost to the Astros’ farm. The minor league pipeline has run a bit dry over the last few years, and among the club’s top prospects, Solomon is more big league ready than most of his peers. When healthy, he shows more or less all of the ingredients that an evaluator hopes to see in a big league hurler- he’s able to command a firm fastball, has two legitimate breaking balls which can produce swings and misses, and he’s also made great progress with a changeup that helps him out against left handed hitters. Despite a dearth of professional innings, Solomon really isn’t far off from the big leagues, so long as his command remains solid as he works back from Tommy John.
The Astros got big contributions from rookie pitchers in 2020, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we might see a similar phenomenon in 2021- in addition to Solomon, upper minors arms like Tyler Ivey and Nivaldo Garcia also look very nearly ready to contribute, Forrest Whitley is still capable of big things if he’s fully healthy, and we could see more from familiar faces like Bryan Abreu, Cionel Perez and Jojanse Torres, who as of yet haven’t been able to establish themselves at the highest level. I’d expect Solomon to be assigned to Double-A to start the 2021 campaign, which will have him in position for a call-up from the jump.