Not many players can match the experiences that Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña had as a rookie. The 25-year-old cracked over 20 home runs in his first season, won an AL Gold Glove, and dominated in the postseason. Heading into 2023, it’s now time to take a closer look at Peña’s first season, and what can be taken away heading into this upcoming fantasy season.
A Look at Peña
Drafted out of the University of Maine back in 2018, Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña shined in his first MLB season. The 25-year-old hit 22 home runs (3.98% HR%) for Houston, and reeled off four more in the playoffs for the eventual 2022 World Series champions. Peña drove in 68 runs during the regular season, and the shortstop’s good speed also netted him 11 steals.
The 22 home runs marked a jump in power for the rookie. Across three Minor League seasons and 182 games, Peña hit just 19 home runs (2.28% HR%). Ten of those 19 came in an abbreviated 30 game stint with Sugar Land (AAA) in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. While Peña did produce a below-average average exit velocity figure last season, a pull-leaning spray chart & an above-average Barrel% rate are indicators that this increase didn’t come by accident.
Peña’s peripheral numbers from last season showed that the 25-year-old held his own in his first MLB campaign. After all, Peña finished tied for sixth among all shortstops in home runs, and his .253 batting average was respectable. Peña wasn’t an top-tier option at short last season in fantasy, but the World Series MVP offered a fair amount of value for those who needed support at the position, or a solid Utility hitter. However, some signs of caution for 2023 did pop up.
In his first season, Peña racked up a 24.2% K% rate last season. That figure was not terrible, yet it was below-average. However, his discipline metrics were nowhere near impressive. The rookie posted a well-below-average 37.8% Chase% rate, alongside below-average Whiff% (29.7%) and BB% (3.9%) rates. The latter ranked among the worst in baseball last season, and a sharp departure from his time in the Minors. Across three MiLB season, Peña posted a BB% rate of 9.2%.
While it’s fair to expect a deviation in walk numbers in the Majors, Peña’s swing-heavy tendency did no favors. That issue last season is something to keep in mind heading into fantasy this season.
2023 Fantasy Outlook
Peña feels like a true fantasy wild card entering the 2023 campaign. Should Peña produce at or near the level that he did last season, the Astros shortstop will be very valuable this season. Peña possesses good pop for a shortstop, and his above-average speed makes the infielder a nice source of stolen base potential.
On the other hand, Peña’s approach at the plate could be an issue for 2023. Entering his second season, it’s fair to expect pitchers to have a better idea on how to handle the 25-year-old shortstop. If Peña has issues adjusting, it may very well mean a dip in production.
The 2022 AL Gold Glove winner is not set to be a top-tier option at short this season, and much of that has to do with depth. Besides the obvious higher-end options that include Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Bo Bichette, it’s tough to rank Peña ahead of players like Willy Adames and Bobby Witt Jr. Adames cracked 31 home runs and finished third among shortstops in total RBIs (99). Witt Jr., meanwhile, was one of just nine players last season to record a 20-20 campaign.
Despite the strong playoff run by Peña, don’t aggressively rank the shortstop. He does carry good value & potential, and should be a nice find in the middle rounds. However, there is a fair amount of risk with the young infielder heading into 2023.