Jeremy Peña named World Series MVP after historic playoff run

Houston's shortstop is the first rookie position player to win World Series MVP.

Photo of Michael Shapiro

It's rather astonishing Jeremy Peña was named World Series MVP on Saturday night considering where he less than one year ago. 

Peña logged a mere 30 games above Single-A before making his debut with the Houston Astros in April. He missed the entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and much of his 2021 minor-league season was disrupted due to a wrist injury. The player Houston tabbed to replace franchise legend Carlos Correa entered the big leagues with much of his professional experience coming in the lower level of the minors. 

The trust from general manager James Click has officially paid off. Peña became the first rookie position player in baseball history to be named World Series MVP after Houston's 4-1 win in Game 6 on Saturday, and the Fall Classic served as a mere continuation of Peña's brilliance in the postseason. Peña effectively ended the ALDS with an 18th-inning home run in Game 3 in Seattle. He pummeled New York pitching en route to ALCS MVP honors one series later. Peña saved his best for last, turning in a tour de force performance on both sides of the ball against Philadelphia. He hit .400 in the World Series and led all players with a 1.023 .OPS, fueling Houston's championship run just as Correa did five years prior. 

We shouldn't understate the scope of Peña's historic postseason. He is the ninth player to win a League Championship Series and World Series MVP in the same season, and he is the first rookie since Livan Hernandez in 1997 to be named MVP of the World Series. Peña became the first rookie shortstop to hit a home run in the World Series in Game 5. His 20 postseason hits are third all-time among rookies, only trailing October luminaries Randy Arozarena, Derek Jeter and Yuli Gurriel. Peña has drawn comparison to Jeter for his cool demeanor and clutch performance. The conflation is fair after one of the more impressive runs in postseason history. 

"He's carried us for a while now," Astros manager Dusty Baker said after Houston's Game 5 win. "That's especially tough for a young player, a young shortstop especially." 

Peña's postseason was a perhaps a shock to those outside of Houston. Within the Astros' clubhouse, Peña's breakout was little surprise. Baker praised Peña throughout the season for his emotional maturity, citing the young shortstop's "high retention rate" when receiving instruction. Houston third baseman Alex Bregman praised Peña's mental fortitude ahead of Game 1 of the World Series, noting the young shortstop's ability to separate offensive outcomes from defensive focus. 

"He didn’t ever take his bat out to playing defense," Bregman said. "If we went 0-for-4 he'd still go out and play amazing shortstop. If he made an error he'd go up and get a big hit."

It required a leap of faith from Click and Baker to award Peña the starting shortstop job on Opening Day. His 30 games at Triple-A Sugar Land isn't exactly a proper training ground for serving as a Major League shortstop, let alone for a team with clear World Series aspirations. The stakes never seemed to rattle Peña. He spent the regular season playing with a precocious calm, and the bright lights of the postseason couldn't knock him off course. Peña made leaping grabs and turned double plays with ease. He bashed home runs against the best pitching staffs in baseball, adding a Michael Jordan-esque shrug in Game 5 against Philadelphia.

On a team littered with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, a rookie with little Minor League experience stole the show in October and November. Peña is now World Series MVP. He'll likely become the face of Houston's dynasty in 2023 and beyond.  

More Astros News

PHOTOS: Houston's championship run in pictures

10 moments that shaped the Astros' World Series title

Jeremy Peña seems ecstatic about team's offseason moves

How Michael Brantley helped save the Astros’ season

Catch up on Texas sports, sign up for the Launch Pad newsletter here.