The Houston Astros bet big on rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña this season. The result is a historic World Series MVP award.
Peña became the third rookie in MLB history, and first rookie position player, to win World Series MVP honors on Saturday after the Astros finished off the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. The only other two rookies to receive the honor were Larry Sherry for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959 and Liván Hernández for the Florida Marlins in 1997.
The 25-year-old Peña was the Astros’ most consistent bat throughout the postseason, but he reached another gear in the Fall Classic by hitting .400/.423/.714. He registered a hit in all six games and a run in all but the team’s Game 3 shutout loss.
That came after an ALCS MVP performance one round earlier, in which he went 6-for-17 with two homers against the New York Yankees. Just as valuable as Peña’s bat has been his glove, as he also maintained the level of defense that earned him a Gold Glove at shortstop during the regular season.
It says something that a rookie was arguably the most important player in a World Series run for a team that has made the ALCS every season since 2017 and all but two World Series in that span. Some big names still remain from that first 2017 team — Justin Verlander, José Altuve, Alex Bregman — but the Astros are once again hoisting their piece of metal thanks to a nearly unmatched ability to develop players ready for the moment.
Jeremy Peña replaced Carlos Correa for Astros
You might have heard another star from that 2017 team, Carlos Correa, left the Astros last offseason.
Correa was a massively important player for the Astros, supplying a middle-of-the-order bat and Gold Glove defense from the shortstop, not to mention clubhouse leadership. Players like that aren’t supposed to be easy to replace when they leave for a three-year, $105.3 million contract.
And yet here are the Astros, winning another World Series, with another Gold Glove shortstop who entered this season without a game of MLB experience.
The Astros drafted Peña out of Maine in the third round of the 2018 MLB draft. As often happens in Houston, Peña slowly morphed into a significant prospect, skipping Double-A after the lost 2020 minor league season before breaking out at Triple-A with a .287/.346/.598 season last year.
Peña was named the No. 72 overall prospect by Baseball America in January, then the Astros’ starting shortstop in March. He had an up-and-down season at the plate, hitting .253/.289/.426 during the regular season, but his glove helped the Astros form the American League’s most effective run prevention machine.
Then the switch got flipped in the postseason. Peña hit safely in 12 of 13 playoff games as the Astros tore through the competition. It might be unfair to expect him to swing that kind of bat long term, but you can most definitely expect the Astros to keep finding players like him as long as their machine keeps rolling on.