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Astros MiLB Position Review: Shortstop

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A review of the shortstop position in the Astros system

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Mets
Mar 16, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena (89) connects for a solo homerun in the 3rd inning of the spring training game against the New York Mets at Clover Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the season is over we will review each position in the minor league system during the 2021 season. This week I will be looking at the shortstop position. The players here played the majority of their games at shortstop this season.

Previous Position Reviews:

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Third Base

TOP PERFORMERS

Jeremy Pena

Pena came into the season with big expectations following a strong Spring Training. Unfortunately he got hurt and was sidelined until August but he came back with a vengeance. After a few games in rookie ball he was sent to Triple-A where he crushed the ball putting up a .944 OPS with 10 HR in 30 games. Pena has a chance to be the starting shortstop next year if Correa doesn’t come back and I think he is ready for it. He is great defensively and we got to see plenty of improvement with the bat over the last few years. Read more on Pena here.

2021 Stats: 37 G, .297 BA/.363 OBP/.579 SLG, 5 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB, 130 wRC+

Shay Whitcomb

Whitcomb was a 5th round pick by the Astros in 2020 and had a breakout 2021 season. He started the year in Low-A and slashed .282/.369/.429 in 41 games earning a promotion to High-A. There his numbers got even better hitting .300 with a .959 OPS. He finished the season with 23 HR and 30 SB overall and one of the best offensive seasons in the Astros system this year.

2021 Stats: 99 G, .293 BA/.363 OBP/.530 SLG, 25 2B, 23 HR, 78 RBI, 30 SB, 137 wRC+

J.C. Correa

Correa put together a great 2021 season. He started the year in Low-A and slashed .306/.392/.477 with 19 doubles in 56 games including hitting .418 over the final 18 games. He was then promoted to the Tourists where he continued to crush slashing .314/.337/.449 with 13 2B, 4 HR. Overall he hit .310 for the season with 32 2B and 9 HR. A great season from Correa as he proved that he is a legitimate prospect and one to watch in 2022.

2021 Stats: 101 G, .310 BA/.368 OBP/.464 SLG, 32 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 10 SB, 126 wRC+

THE REST OF THE PACK

Pedro Leon

Leon came over as a center fielder but the Astros played him at shortstop for the majority of the season. Overall he finished with a .707 OPS in 72 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He finished strong in Double-A though posting a .936 OPS (150 wRC+) over his final 36 games before the promotion to Triple-A. He will be a fun one to watch in 2022.

2021 Stats: 43 G, .257 BA/.351 OBP/.388 SLG, 7 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 18 SB, 106 wRC+

Cristian Gonzalez

Gonzalez was one of the big risers in 2021. While the overall numbers don’t look great, the then 19 year old played in full season ball while being more than 2 years younger than the league average. Overall in 43 games (13 in rookie and 30 in Fayetteville) he slashed .261/.320/.382 with 6 2B, 4 HR, 27 RBI.

2021 Stats: 43 G, .261 BA/.320 OBP/.382 SLG, 6 2B, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 4 SB

Grae Kessinger

Kessinger was the Astros 2nd round pick in 2019 but struggled most of 2021. He played the full season in Double-A and put up just a .617 OPS with 18 XBH in 86 games. The Astros sent him to the Arizona Fall League and he played well there posting a .820 OPS against some good competition.

2021 Stats: 86 G, .209 BA/.287 OBP/.330 SLG, 9 2B, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 12 SB

Freudis Nova

Nova was once a highly touted prospect but he hasn’t really developed like some expected following his big bonus. In 2021 he hit just .224 with a .636 OPS and struggled to stay healthy. He was removed from the 40-man roster and outright to Triple-A this off season.

2021 Stats: 73 G, .224 BA/.301 OBP/.335 SLG, 14 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 9 SB

2022 OUTLOOK/CONCLUSION

This is the position with the outlook most in question. If Carlos Correa re-signs in Houston, the shortstop position will be locked up for years. If he signs elsewhere, the Astros have Jeremy Pena ready to step in. Outside of him, they have some solid depth with Whitcomb and J.C. Correa. I still think Leon ends up in the outfield. Either way, the Astros have options there with or without Carlos Correa.