After laying out the awesome tour de force that has been Jeremy Pena so far in 2022, our Houston rookie love fest continues today. Between Pena's stellar performance, the NBA Draft lottery last week, and our first upcoming look at Texans' rookies playing with some veteran teammates, it's a fun reminder that we finally have some young players across ALL THREE teams that are worth investing in emotionally.
The Texans have a slew of rookies on their squad, but the most important one is the number three overall pick, cornerback Derek Stingley. The Rockets, too, have a bunch of young players, but the most important one is first team All-Rookie guard, Jalen Green. Pena's importance to the Astros' future is well documented. So which of the three would you buy stock in, if that were actually something you could do — Green, Stingley, or Pena?
I put this question to my Twitter followers recently, and they responded overwhelmingly in favor of the Astros' rookie shortstop:
I am not surprised Pena won, but I'm mildly surprised it was such a rout. The fact that (a) he plays on easily the best team of the three, and (b) he is the only one playing in real games right now (and playing well!) probably factor in heavily. However, I think you can make a case for (and against) each one of them. Again, the question isn't about which one is the best right NOW, it's about which one you'd buy stock in for the long term. So let's examine each:
JEREMY PENA, Astros shortstop
Pena has spent the entire 2022 MLB season among the top five players in the American League in WAR, hovering near players the likes of Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. Also, there is a good chance he will be playing in several very important postseason games in the next few years. Pena seems to have the same flair for the dramatic that Correa did in big situations.
Pena has been injury prone since entering professional baseball. It's why he only played 30 games above A-ball before taking over for Correa. Also, across all three sports, baseball is the one where the adjustment to the chess game is most acute for rookies. Pitchers are getting a book on Pena, and we will see how he adapts.
JALEN GREEN, Rockets guard
Green is the only one of the three to play a full season, and he made first team All Rookie. More importantly, he got better as the season went along, offensively and defensively, including six 30-point games in the final seven games of the season, and a 41-point effort in the season finale. Green has the potential to win multiple scoring titles.
Barring injury, Green is about as risk free as it gets to buy into as a future All Star. He will pile up points, and he does have a magnetic charm about him. However, basketball is the one sport where one's worth as a SUPERSTAR is ultimately judged by titles — ask Charles Barkley, or James Harden, for that matter. Green's future greatness as a scorer is no doubt for me, but what is his ceiling as a winning basketball player. That's a massive question mark.
DEREK STINGLEY, Jr., Texans cornerback
Stingley has the most impressive pre-professional tape of the three rookies listed here, having made All American as a rookie, and having laid down reams of practice footage battling Jordan Jefferson and Ja'marr Chase at LSU. His toolbox is ELITE. Also, if the Texans win at a high level, football is still king around these parts.
Stingley missed most of two seasons with injuries at LSU, and that cannot be ignored. Also, life as an NFL cornerback can be the loneliest of any of these if opposing teams are picking on you early in your career.
PENDERGAST CHOICE: Green
I think the way Green improved at the end of the season says a lot about his basketball acumen and self awareness. A better supporting cast will help him win games, and by the time he is in his mid-20s, it will be wide open as to whose NBA this is, with LeBron, Giannis, and the Golden State Warriors all either aging or gone. I am here for Luka vs Jalen for Texas supremacy for about ten years!
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