Former University of Maine shortstop Jeremy Pena has continued to earn promotions within the Houston Astros organization.
Pena, a third-round draft pick (102nd overall) in the 2018 Amateur Entry Draft, appeared in 36 games for the Tri-City Valley Cats in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League a year ago after concluding his UMaine career and signing with the Astros.
He hit .250 with one home run and 10 runs batted in.
Pena began this season with the Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa, and was named to the Class A Midwest League’s all-star team even though the River Bandits were unable to play many home games due to flooding in that city.
He hit .293 in 66 games for Quad Cities with five homers, 41 RBIs, eight doubles, four triples and 17 stolen bases in 23 attempts. He scored 44 runs.
Pena subsequently earned a promotion to Fayetteville (North Carolina) of the Carolina League and has swung the bat even better so far for the Woodpeckers.
He took a .340 average into Monday night’s game against Potomac with five doubles, two triples and five RBIs in 14 games.
“I’m just trying to help the team win, playing the game hard and having fun with it,” said Pena, the son of former major leaguer Geronimo Pena.
He said the Carolina League is better than the Midwest League because the pitchers are more consistent, but both leagues are challenging.
“Baseball is baseball. Everybody is good at this level. Everybody knows how to play the game,” Pena said.
The 21-year-old former All-America East second-team and rookie-team selection said that with the lengthiness of the season players must be able to overcome batting slumps and other low points.
“The season is so long, if you have a bad day you’ve just got to bounce back the next day,” he said.
Pena, rated the nation’s fourth-best college shortstop by Baseball America before his junior year at UMaine, said playing second base in the minors has not been a big adjustment “because we play a lot of shifts, so sometimes the shortstop will be on the first-base side of the second-base bag or the second baseman will be on the shortstop side of the bag.”
Pena has been happy with his season to date but said, “I’ve still got a ways to go. I try not to think about it. I’ll look back at it after the season.”
The slick-fielding Providence, Rhode Island, native, who hit .283, .319 and .308 in his three seasons at UMaine and finished with a career .304 batting average, said his time on the Orono campus was valuable in his development.
“I expect to see him on TV [in the major leagues] some day,” UMaine coach Nick Derba said.