Jeremy Peña has already made Houston Astros fans feel more secure in the decision to let Carlos Correa walk with his stellar play both offensively and defensively. Currently, Peña sits at eighth among all Major Leaguers with a 2.6 WAR, and to put that in perspective, Mike Trout is at 2.7.
And while Peña’s defense garners nearly as much as his offense, he’s still hitting a robust .280 which is good for second on the team behind Yordan Alvarez at .281.
The Astros should consider moving Jeremy Peña into the five spot and moving Yuli Gurriel into the seven spot in the batting order.
While Yuli Gurriel is coming off a batting title last year and has more of a track record than the young budding shortstop, he has struggled mightily at the plate this year. The only other season where he struggled this much was in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. And this year is even worse compared to that one.
So far, he’s batting .223 with an on-base percentage of .261. He’s also striking out at an extraordinary rate especially for someone known for making consistent contact and rarely striking out. In fact, Gurriel has never struck out more than 68 times in one season — a true marvel in today’s three outcomes, money ball approach to batting.
But so far in 45 games this year, he’s whiffed 26 times. That would put him on pace for 78 strikeouts, and while that’s not even close to the 150 to 200 we see from a lot of sluggers, it is a lot from someone in the lineup primarily to put the ball in play and make contact.
He does have positives such as leading the team in doubles, so it’s possible he turns it around. But a possible explanation for the Astros’ sudden drop offensively this season — currently they’re 18th in the major leagues in runs scored — is the offensive drop-offs from Alex Bregman and Gurriel.
And while Bregman has been at least drawing a lot of walks including bases loaded ones to drive in runs, Gurriel has not been the same player from last year. Shaking up the lineup and putting Peña, who admittedly strikes out a lot, could give a jolt to the offense just to change things and see how having certain hitters as protection can alter the offense.
There is a lot of swing and miss to Peña’s game so far. He’s struck out 39 times, second only to Martin Maldonado, and he’s only walked 10 times. But he’s outperforming Gurriel in every category except for doubles and strikeouts. He’s even drawn more walks.
It may not solve the problem, but at this point, Peña has proven he can hit for average and hit for power, ranking third on the team tied with Kyle Tucker. Put him in between Alvarez and Tucker and see what they can do as a four-five-six tandem, while hoping Gurriel can rediscover his stroke and drive some runs home if Peña and Tucker can get on base in front of him.
It’s an experiment worth trying considering the offense has been the calling card of this team for the past half decade. If the offense can catch up to the way the pitching staff has performed, it would be a pretty unstoppable combination. But the Astros have to do something to make that happen. Moving Peña up in the lineup could be a move in that direction.