Peña recovered in time to take advantage of the extended Triple-A season. The 23-year-old shortstop played his first game for Sugar Land on Aug. 28 and promises to see close to everyday time in the four weeks that follow.
“He can get a bunch of games in,” Astros general manager James Click said. “At a position like shortstop, the game reps are so valuable because you’re involved in so many different situations . . .
“It’s very difficult to simulate that in a controlled environment. You have to have experience in the game.”
Peña’s results won’t solely determine the Astros’ actions this winter, but may offer Click and his front office a better glimpse of what he may be at the major league level.
The team has always loved Peña’s defense and makeup, but questions remain about his bat at the major league level. He played at two Class A levels in 2019, batting 303/.385/.440 in 109 games.
Peña’s return coincides with Correa’s recent reiteration of what’s been obvious since March: he is headed for free agency and views this as his last season in Houston.
Replacing him is an unenviable task. Houston will explore the free agent market, but it lost a chance to look at two of its most logical internal options. Peña injured his left wrist diving for a ground ball in April. Pedro Leon fractured his pinkie finger in July just after receiving a promotion to Triple-A.
Peña seems more likely to impact the major leagues sooner than Leon. The Astros must add him to their 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Peña has appeared in just 153 games since Houston made him a 2018 third-rounder out of Maine.
The Astros were considering sending Peña back to the Dominican League—he won rookie of the year honors there last year—or to the Arizona Fall League, too, for more much-needed game experience.
— The Astros are encouraged by swing adjustments from Corey Julks, a 2017 eighth-round pick from nearby University of Houston. Julks unlocked a power stroke at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he slugged .519 and struck 33 extra-base hits in his first 290 plate appearances this season.
— Hard-throwing righthander Shawn Dubin is back for Triple-A Sugar Land after combating some inflammation in his elbow. Since returning, Dubin had 17 strikeouts in 9.1 innings while sitting 97-99 mph with his four-seam fastball. Like Jeremy Peña, Dubin is Rule 5 eligible this winter if not added to the 40-man roster.