Roberto Pena, the 22-year-old, 2014 minor league Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, was very impressive in his Double-A debut Friday night in Corpus Christi.
In Pena’s first game, the 6′, 217 pound backstop, went 2-for-3, with an RBI and run scored. His first Double-A hit, was a line drive with two outs, nobody on, to left-center. Then Pena picked up another base hit with shot over the third baseman’s head to drive in a run.
The knock on Pena in the past has been on his bat. At the end of last season, Pena played winter ball with the Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League to address the issues with his hitting, a move that appears to have paid off, with his approach and results in his first game of the season.
Pena reminds me a lot of the St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, at this stage of his development. Molina a defensive specialist, with a great arm, had to work on and develop into a Major League hitter. Pena is arguably the best defensive catcher in all of minor league baseball, let alone in just the Astros organization. Baseball America has rated Pena as the best defensive catcher in Astros system each year since 2011.
In the fourth inning Pena, looked like Molina as he threw a bullet to second, to throw out the Springfield Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who was trying to steal second base. That throw, that was dead on the mark, shut down a potential rally. Last season Pena threw out 52 of the 92 men who attempted to run on him. That’s good enough for a minor league best 56.5 caught stealing percentage. Impressive considering an average catcher will throw out attempted base runners around 33 percent of the time. Pena’s defense and arm is anything but average.
Pena was drafted in the 7th round of the 2010 Draft out of Eloisa Pascual (Caguas, Puerto Rico) and is playing in his sixth professional season with Houston. Looking back, the Astros haven’t had a Gold Glove-winning catcher in the majors since Brad Ausmus, a five-time Gold Glove Award winner, played for them from 2001-2008, but it appears that they have one on way now.