December 3, 2022

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Jeremy Peña a budding star for Astros

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This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Next week, the Astros will travel to Minneapolis to meet the Twins and will be reunited with Carlos Correa, their former star shortstop who helped them to three World Series appearances, including the 2017 championship. The Astros haven’t looked back since letting Correa walk in free agency, though.

Rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña has more than held his own in his first month the big leagues and entered Wednesday’s series finale against the Mariners with five home runs, 14 RBIs and a .760 OPS in 23 games. Peña, ranked as the club’s top prospect by MLB Pipeline, was hitting just .229, but in Astros wins he was batting .340 with three doubles, four homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.062 OPS.

“I don’t look at my stats,” he said. “Every single day is new. I just compete.”

Looking deeper, Peña was in the top 86 percent in baseball in average exit velocity and expected slugging percentage, top 80 percent in hard-hit percentage, 89th percent in barrel percentage, 96th percent in sprint speed and 98th percent in outs above average. Those are terrific numbers.

If there’s a knock on his game so far, it’s the swing and miss. He’s in the bottom 20 percent in chase rate and in the 36th percentile in whiff percentage. Once he’s able to stay in the strike more, he should take off as an offensive player.

“The fact that he can hit the ball out of the ballpark hit the ball in the gaps, he’s just scratching the surface on what he can do,” manager Dusty Baker said.

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