What does Astros’ big batting order change say about confidence in other players?

Where will Jeremy Peńa be hitting in the Astros lineup?

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (2) celebrates with Yordan Alvarez
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (2) celebrates with Yordan Alvarez / Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
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You could set your watch by Dusty Baker's lineup card last season. Jose Altuve would lead things off, followed by Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez. But new Houston Astros manager Joe Espada may not follow the future Hall of Famer's blueprint.

Espada isn't going to mess with Altuve in the leadoff spot, so you don't have to worry about that, Astros fans. However, the skipper appears to be looking to bump Alvarez up in the batting order and slot him behind the Astros second baseman with Bregman and Kyle Tucker to follow.

Espada spoke with MLB.com's Brian McTaggart about his decision, saying, "I see Altuve, Alvarez being that once-two punch in your face right out of the gate." Truer words have never been spoken, as seeing the combination of Altuve and Alvarez atop the batting order will strike fear into most opposing pitchers. But what does this lineup change say about the rest of the Astros hitters?

What does Astros’ big batting order change say about confidence in other players?

This change in the Astros batting order will certainly make their lineup very top-heavy. Altuve, Alvarez, Bregman, and Tucker are all All-Star caliber players. The hope, most likely, would be that Jose Abreu bounces back following a horrific first season in H-Town, and find a home batting fifth in the Astros lineup.

But don't expect to see Jeremy Peña taking his hacks until at least the No. 7 or 8 spot in the Astros batting order. Espada, citing the desire for Peña to find a stable place in the Houston lineup, believes he'll be in the bottom of the batting order.

That likely means Yainer Diaz, who's expected to be the Astros everyday catcher in 2024, will be hitting sixth, and some combination of Peña, Chas McCormick, and Jake Meyers will bring up the rear during the upcoming season.

After a successful rookie campaign that saw him take over for perennial All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa in 2022, Peńa came back to earth in 2023 with a dip in his power numbers. In 2022, Peña posted a .426 slugging percentage, but that number dropped to .381 last season. Peńa hit 22 homers in 2022, but only watched 10 balls leave the yard in 2023.

If Peńa wants to return to the top of the Astros batting order, he's going to have to show his manager that he belongs. It's going to be difficult for Peńa to unseat Alvarez from the No. 2 spot in the lineup, but a more consistent role in the order may help the Astros shortstop to improve his offensive approach at the dish.

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