The Astros announced they’ve selected infielders Jeremy Peña and Joe Perez, right-hander Shawn Dubin and left-hander Jonathan Bermudez to the 40-man roster. Infielder Freudis Nova has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Sugar Land, while Houston lost southpaw Kent Emanuel on waivers to Philadelphia. Houston’s 40-man roster is full, so they’ll need to make another move once their re-signing of Justin Verlander becomes official.
Peña is the most notable of the group, as he’s regarded by both FanGraphs and Baseball America as one of the top two prospects in the Houston system. Originally a third-round pick out of the University of Maine in 2018, Peña has handily outperformed that draft status as a professional. Always regarded as a high-end defensive infielder, the right-handed hitter has offered quite a bit more than expected at the plate over the past few seasons. He’s been an above-average hitter at every minor league stop by measure of wRC+.
While Peña’s still regarded as a glove-first prospect, his plate discipline and passable raw power should give him a chance to be an everyday shortstop in the future. The 23-year-old missed most of this past season recovering from wrist surgery but returned late in the year to hit .287/.346/.598 with ten homers over 133 plate appearances with Sugar Land. That came with an elevated 26.3% strikeout rate, and the Houston front office may want to give him a little more time at the minors’ top level before he makes his big league debut.
Still, Peña was a lock to be protected from the Rule 5, and it seems he’ll be in the majors before too long. With Carlos Correa potentially departing in free agency, the Astros have to weigh how confident they are in Peña’s ability to assume a key role on a contending club in 2022. The front office’s confidence in the talented youngster could well impact how hard they try to retain or replace Correa this offseason.
Perez was a second-round pick out of a Florida high school in 2017. Primarily a third baseman, he draws praise for his power and arm strength but has some questions about his bat-to-ball skills. The 22-year-old mashed over 109 plate appearances with High-A Asheville this year. He hit at an average .267/.322/.420 clip with eight homers and a 26.1% strikeout rate over 307 plate appearances upon a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi. BA placed the right-handed hitter sixth in the Astros’ system midseason.
Dubin, 26, was a 13th-rounder in 2018 out of Georgetown College in Kentucky. The right-hander has posted strong numbers in a swing capacity over his pro career, topping out at Sugar Land this past season. BA credits him with a low-mid 90s fastball and plus slider, in addition to a fringe-average curveball and changeup. BA suggests he has a chance to stick as a starter, while FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote that he’s likelier to end up in relief. Either way, Dubin’s bat-missing abilities should get him a major league look relatively soon. He punched out 35.4% of opponents against a 9.7% walk rate in 49 2/3 Triple-A innings this year, working to a 3.44 ERA in the process.
Bermudez, meanwhile, was a 23rd-rounder out of Southeastern University in that same 2018 draft. The 26-year-old southpaw has never appeared on an organizational ranking at FanGraphs or BA, but he’s the owner of a strong minor league resume. He split the 2021 campaign between the minors’ top two levels, working to a 3.24 ERA over 111 innings. Bermudez punched out a lofty 31.9% of batters faced while walking just 7.4%, setting himself up for a potential big league debut in 2022.
Nova was formerly one of the top prospects in the organization as well. He’s struggled with underperformance and injuries in recent seasons, and he underwent surgery to repair an ACL tear in September. The 21-year-old will remain in the organization and hope to work his way back onto the 40-man roster once he’s healthy.