International Players in 2022 World Series

Jeremy Pena, Dominican Republic, Houston Astros

Matthew Tallarini, Chief Correspondent, World Baseball Network

November 10 2022

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rebecca Blackwell/AP/Shutterstock (12852555bs) Infielder Jeremy Pena of the Houston Astros laughs as he poses for pictures during photo day at Astros spring training, at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla Houston Astros 2022 Baseball Headshots, West Palm Beach, United States – 16 Mar 2022

Jeremy Pena, born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, has become the unsung rookie hero of the Houston Astros ball club during the 2022 season.  He is the second rookie in history and the first position player to be nominated as the MVP of the League Championship Series and World Series.  Pena’s father, Geronimo Pena, played in the Major Leagues at the second base position from 1990-1995 with the St. Louis Cardinals and the 1996 season with the Cleveland Indians.  Pena moved from the Dominican Republic to Providence, Rhode Island, when he was nine. He was a three-sport athlete at Classical HS in Providence, playing baseball and running track and cross country for two calendar years.  Pena was beginning to be recognized by regional major league scouts during his junior and senior years of high school.  Pena batted .352 his junior year, then came back for his senior season to have a bounce-back year for his program, hitting two home runs and batting .390 before being selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round of the 2015 Major League Amateur Draft.  Pena would not sign out of high after being drafted; instead, he would attend the University of Maine to play his freshman year. 

Pena would end his freshman year at the University of Maine on a high note posting a .283 average, with just one home run, and 15 runs batted in through 55 games.  During the 2016 summer going into his sophomore year, Pena would play in the New England Collegiate League (NECL) for the Plymouth Pilgrims.  Pena batted .236, with 160 plate appearances, putting out four home runs and driving in 13 runs during the 35 games playing for Plymouth.  Pena would adjust his mechanics during the fall league season of his collegiate program.  He would put up great numbers during the 2017 season for the University of Maine in 54 games, posting a .319 batting average with 252 plate appearances driving in 32 runs and having six home runs in his sophomore year.  In the summer of 2017, going into his junior year of college, Pena would take his talents to the premier Cape Cod Summer League playing for the Chatham Anglers.  While playing in the Cape, Pena would have 140 plus plate appearances posting a .228 batting average in 36 games with 13 runs batted in and three home runs for the season.  Pena would confidently enter his junior season from his experience in the Cape and during fall ball with his collegiate program.  Pena would play 54 games during his junior year before declaring for the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft.  He would post a .311 batting average in 54 games with 248 plate appearances driving in 28 runs and hitting five home runs in his last season at the University of Maine. 

A few weeks after ending his junior year at the University of Maine, Pena would be selected in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft by the Houston Astros in the third round.  Pena would later sign with the Houston Astros organization and make his professional debut with the Tri-City Valley Cats Single-A short-season ball club for the second half of the 2018 season.  Pena’s first stint of his professional career was just a beginning to the numbers he is now putting up at the major league level for Houston.  Coming out of Spring Training during the 2019 season, Pena would begin to regain many of his five-tool tactics at the Single-A level.  He would start in Class A with the Quad City River Bandits batting .293 in 66 games with five home runs and 41 runs batted in before being promoted to High-A with the Fayetteville Woodpeckers in the middle of the 2019 season.  During 43 games with Fayetteville, Pena would post a .317 batting average putting out two home runs and driving in 12 runs to close out the 2019 season.

Unfortunately for Pena, the 2020 season would be a season to uptick his mechanics, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the minor league season was canceled.   He would begin a structured 2020-2021 offseason as Pena played in the Arizona Fall League and the Dominican Winter League.  Pena would start adjusting to hitting against prime professional pitching during his first year in the Dominican Republic for Estrellas Orientales.  During 30 games, he batted .306, with three home runs and nine runs batted in before the start of the 2021 Spring Training season.  

 At the beginning of the 2021 season, Pena was sidelined due to surgery on his left wrist coming out of Spring Training.  Pena would be activated off the injured list in August to start his rehabilitation stints of Rookie Ball at the Houston Astros Spring Training complex before being called up to Triple-A with the Sugar Land Skeeters to finish the 2021 season.   At the Triple-A level, Pena would finish the year with a .287 batting average, putting out ten home runs and driving in 19 runs.  Later during the offseason, Pena committed to playing in the Dominican Republic for a second season with Estrellas Orientales.  Pena began to put up eye-opening numbers through 30 games with 132 plate appearances placing a .291 average, driving in 15 runs and two home runs during the 2021-2022 winter league season.   At the end of the Dominican Winter League season, Pena would be awarded his second consecutive gold glove at the shortstop position playing 30 games, only allowing five errors, with a .970 fielding percentage and turning nine double plays for the year. 

The Astros would make certain acquisitions during the 2021-2022 offseason.  They would not resign Carlos Correa and let him walk as a free agent.  This led to a huge opportunity for Pena to earn the starting job at the shortstop position out of Spring Training.  On April 8, 2022, Pena would hit his first major league home run with his family in attendance to watch their son’s magical moment.  During the 2022 season with the big club, Pena would bat .253, with 63 runs batted in and 22 home runs, resulting in the lowest walk-strikeout ratio in all of Major League Baseball. 

The Houston Astros would be on their way to their second consecutive World Series and their fourth World Series in the last six years with the help of Jeremy Pena’s bat during the 2022 MLB postseason.  Pena would help the undefeated postseason Houston Astros Ball club entering the Fall Classic by becoming the American League Championship Series MVP hitting .353 with two home runs during the four-game sweep of the New York Yankees.  In Game 5 of the 2022 World Series, Pena would step to the plate looking to do damage against Phillies starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard as he drove the ball over the left field fence for the Astros to take a 3-2 lead going back to Houston for Game 6. The Astros would win the World Series thanks to help from Yordan Alvarez, who placed a spark for Houston by putting a three-run homer over the center field wall en route to Houston’s second world championship in franchise history.  Pena would have two hits during the World Series clincher for the Astros and later be named the 2022 World Series MVP.