It is no surprise that the wound left behind from the Carlos Correa soap opera will take some time to heal, but now that it is in the rearview mirror, it is time to look at the next star to play shortstop for the Astros, Jeremy Peña.
Drafted in the third round in 2018 out of the University of Maine, Peña has become one of the Astros top prospects as he currently sits at number four overall. A plus defender, Peña has been viewed as one of the best defenders within the Astros system. What draws the attention of Peña on defense is that he has a quick first step and good range. We repeatedly hear that range is critical when playing shortstop, and Peña can meet those criteria. When we look at arm strength, Peña has been graded with an average to plus arm, but his release is quick, balancing everything out.
Peña has shown that he can hit for power on the offensive side. In 37-games in 2021, Peña batted .297/.363/.579/.942, with ten home runs and 21 RBI between the Florida Gulf Coast League and Triple-A with the Sugar Land Skeeters (now Space Cowboys). A wrist injury that required surgery kept Peña down for most of last season but is still has untapped potential waiting to be unlocked, from an offensive perspective.
This Spring, Peña has said all of the right things and done all of the right things. In a recent article and interview with Astros beat writer Brian McTaggart, Peña is quoted, “I never look it as, ‘I’m replacing Carlos Correa. Carlos Correa is a great ballplayer. He’s done great things in Houston, but I’m Jeremy Peña. I want to play my game. I don’t need to fill anyone else’s shoes.”
Manager Dusty Baker has said that Peña is the “front-runner for the job”, but has also said that, “When you’re dealing with young guys, you’ve got to have patience. If you expected him to be in the Hall of Fame right away, it might work, but most of the time it doesn’t. We’ve got great instructors, and he has a great outlook on life and baseball. He’s a very mature young man, and he listens.” A lot of positives for Peña as Spring Training continues.
The Astros did go out and sign Niko Goodrum, and along with utility infielder Aledmys Díaz, Peña will still have some competition this spring, but for the most part, the starting position is his for the taking. All eyes will be on Peña now with Correa gone to the Minnesota Twins.
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