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The Houston Astros just keep rolling along. Every time they have a key departure, a homegrown talent emerges to fill the void. The departure of George Springer saw the emergence of Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. Now, with the departure of Carlos Correa, Jeremy Peña has arrived.
So far this season, Jeremy Peña is 8th in MLB in fWAR. He’s ahead of names like Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, and Wander Franco. He leads all shortstops in fWAR and is third in wRC+ for the position as well. The argument can be made that he’s the best shortstop in baseball right now.
However, there is some weird discrepancies around his defensive ability. Baseball Savant has Peña in the first percentile in Outs Above Average, which would make him the worst defensive shortstop in the league. On the other hand, his Fangraphs DEF rating puts him as the fourth best defensive shortstop.
He does have five errors this season, which would put him in the top 10 among shortstops, but he is well behind league leader, Tim Anderson. Defensive metrics still seem to be muddy, but his bat speaks for itself.
Jeremy Peña’s emergence is a testament to the Astros’ organizational ability to identify and develop talent. Although Peña is the son of former Major Leaguer, Geronimo Peña, his pedigree did not move the needle too much in regards to his amateur career.
Peña was a four year starter at the University of Maine, and was selected by the Astros as a glove first shortstop without much of an offensive ceiling. That is where the Astros’ vision in conjunction with their player development intertwined to create Carlos Correa’s replacement.
Between his 2018 draft year and 2020, Peña went from being unranked in the Astros’ farm system to being their 26th best prospect in 2019. Then he leapt to their third best prospect in 2020. He spent the remainder of his MiLB career as their number two prospect per Baseball America.
While Carlos Correa was a first overall selection in the draft and was a top prospect in the Astros’ organization and MLB since day one, their numbers over their first thirty games are eerily similar. Granted, Peña is 24 and Correa made his debut at 20, the raw production is all the Astros care about.
Over his first 30 career games Peña has posted a .276/.339/.514 slash line for a 153 wRC+ and a 1.7 fWAR. Carlos Correa posted a .273/.301/.508 slash line for a 123 wRC+ and 0.9 fWAR. Obviously, the four year age gap is a factor, but considering the fact that Peña was a third round pick from a smaller D1 program speaks volumes of the Astros’ player development.
Additionally, the fact that they can get anything approaching Correa-like from their new shortstop has to be a huge win for the Astros. Additionally, he is surrounded by players like Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez who are replace any perceived surplus value from the absence of Carlos Correa.
Arguably, the Astros’ offense with Peña, Alvarez, and Tucker is better and more complete than their offenses that featured both George Springer and Carlos Correa.
The Houston Astros have their work cut out for them in the AL West this season. The Los Angeles Angels are healthy and they are rolling, but the Astros are still the team to beat. Jeremy Peña has been day to day with a knee injury, but he is the early frontrunner for the AL Rookie of the Year and he’s very quietly been one of the best players in the league to start the season.