Jeremy Peña *, SS, HOU

Jeremy Peña hit a home run in his first major league game. Where did he come from, and what can we expect of his talents?

Video courtesy of Baseball is Everything
  • Born: September 22, 1997
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’0″, 202-lbs
  • Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of Maine (Orono, ME).

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

In his first taste of professional ball in 2018, Peña didn’t show power or speed, but he got on base at a decent rate and he showed immediate — and very impressive — bat control. To walk as often as you strike out as a 20-year-old fresh out of university is a great sign.

In 2019 he did very well at A level, doubling his power, showing great speed, and while the strikeouts increased it was still within Excellent limits, and his walk rate was steady as she goes. Then he jumps to High-A, and the OBP remains great, the power increases a bit more, but the speed drops (probably more of an opportunity thing) and his walk rate is cut in half.

Then comes 2021, and his OBP is in line with career norms, but his power again doubles, now to a ludicrous .311 ISO. The strikeouts finally become worrisome and the walks remain in Poor territory, and for the first time in his career, his wRC+ drops.

More or less we saw a bat control specialist become a strikeout prone slugger. Huh? And yes, his Hard% rate in 2021 was 29.3, so that power was real. And in a tiny sample size in the majors this year, he certainly is hitting the ball hard:

But the thing about Peña is he is not a slugger, 2021 notwithstanding. When you hit in the AAAW league, you get to hit in some pretty hitter-friendly ballparks, and so, no, do not expect a .300+ ISO in the majors!

So what can we expect? Let’s look at BaseballHQ’s excellent book Minor League Baseball Analyst and see their player capsule for him:

Basically other than his plus defense, which is why he should hold down the job no matter what his bat does, he is average all around: power, BA potential, speed. This is BaseballHQ-speak for a 10-20 HR, 10-15 SB with a good OBP bat. Think solid everyday regular instead of All Star and you’ll be on the right track.

The Scouts

Warnings

Will his real power level please stand up? Last year seems to be a fluke, but he did show the power, and he’s hitting the ball hard now, so some of it is real. How much?

Where did that bat control guy go? The scouts called him a hit-over-power prospect, that his good batting eye would help him maintain a good BA or OBP, and you’d live with whatever power he gave you. Now he seems the opposite, a power-over-hit guy. We need to see which Peña shows up, not just on Opening Day, but, say, by June.

Conclusion

He’s got the starting SS job for the Astros and he won’t give it up. That said, don’t expect a Correa-type ceiling. And if his batting eye returns, he’ll be a valuable contributor to the team besides his good defense.

Time will tell if he’s the slugger or the bat. Either way, to be honest, I think Astros fans will like him.

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