Astros Player of the Day: Jeremy Peña

Nov 3, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena (3) hits a single against the Philadelphia Phillies during the eighth inning in game five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Astros Player of the Day: Jeremy Peña

Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight: Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout the spring.

Today’s Astros Player of the Day is shortstop Jeremy Peña.

Despite only having 122 AB above High-A ball, Peña was thrust into the spotlight to start the 2022 season as the replacement for All-Star Carlos Correa, who was allowed to leave in free agency.

Peña, then 24, showed immediate aptitude in the field with a slick glove, solid arm, and power at the plate. Pena would go on to win the Gold Glove at shortstop his rookie season, with a terrific 15 defensive runs saved above average. His 22 home runs tied the Astros rookie record for most home runs by a shortstop, as he became the sixth rookie in franchise history to reach the 20 HR plateau.

Unsurprisingly for a player who had 122 AB above High-A before getting called to the majors, Peña struggled with breaking pitches outside the zone. Pitch recognition is something most young players struggle with early in their career, especially when they haven’t had enough reps at Double-A and Triple-A to learn to recognize those pitches.

Peña struggled against sliders, curves, and change-ups. Against the slider, Peña hit .236 with a 32.2% strikeout rate. His ground ball rate on sliders was 45.5%, indicating he struggled to make solid contact when he connected. Against curveballs, Peña hit just .188, with a 38.8% strikeout rate and 53.3% ground ball rate on contact. When facing the changeup, he batted .193 with a 25% strikeout rate and a 62.8% ground ball rate.

Compare that to the pitches he succeeded against; four-seamers and cutters. Peña succeeded most against the cutter, batting .353 with only a 7.5% strikeout rate. On four-seamers, he hit .294 with 7 of his 22 home runs. He did post a 19.3% strikeout rate but also a .907 OPS.

Peña has already demonstrated he is an elite-level defender and that his power will translate to the major leagues. For him to take the next step from local fan favorite to All-Star, he will need to improve pitch recognition to avoid waving at breaking pitches outside the zone. His discipline at the plate must also improve, as his 22 walks in 558 plate appearances led to a subpar .289 OBP.

That said, Peña’s postseason numbers showed what he could be capable of with improved plate discipline and pitch recognition for a calendar season. His .345 postseason batting average was impressive, as were his 1.005 OPS, four postseason home runs, and nine postseason extra-base hits as he won both the ALCS and World Series MVP awards. He still didn’t walk much (2 BB in 61 PA), but his pitch recognition was noticeably better, none more evident than the slider he laid off of in Game 1 of the ALDS on an 0-2 count before driving the next slider into center field for a base hit that preceded Yordan Alvarez’ historic walk-off HR. While the recognition didn’t lead to more walks, it led to better pitches to hit, and he took advantage of that.

Peña is expected to take another step forward this season and still have the benefit of not having to be a primary run producer in the Astros’ stacked lineup. Depending on the health of Michael Brantley, Peña could bat either second, as he did in the postseason, or seventh, as he did most of the regular season.

It is reasonable to expect an increase in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS from Peña this season, with a slight uptick in home runs as well. We have already seen the floor of Peña as a major leaguer, but his ceiling could be that of a .270 hitter with 30 HR potential as a perennial gold glove-level defender.

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *