Prospect Parade: D.J. Peterson
The Mariners recently made DJ Peterson their first round pick of this year’s draft. A third baseman from the University of New Mexico, Peterson is regarded as a guy whose polished hitting and potential plus power could move him through the minor leagues quickly. The Mariners started him out in short-A Everett of the Northwest League, giving me a prime opportunity to see the new best hitting prospect in the organization.
First, the physical stuff. Peterson is a big kid, listed at 6’1″ and 205 pounds. He’s perhaps not as athletic-looking as you might like, but he carries the weight well enough to not cause concern. He’s probably going to be a bigger guy as he ages, however.
In the field, Peteson is on the record as saying that he wants to continue to play third base, in spite of scouts questioning how he’ll fit there in the long run. I’m not convinced that he’ll be able to stay there for long, however. The Mariners do have him playing there for now, but he doesn’t move well enough laterally to make one think that it will work as he moves up.
Peterson’s hands and arm are probably good enough to play the position, but without the range it just doesn’t look like a good fit. He does make the charging plays well, which is good to see, but without the lateral range he’d be very limited at the hot corner. Some have theorized that he could move to left field, but it doesn’t look like he has the footspeed to do that, either. The key to where Peterson winds up will be if he can do something, anything, to improve that lateral range. Given how his body projects, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Thankfully, his glove is not what Peterson is known for, as he was drafted for his bat first, second, and third. At the plate, Peterson has a solid approach. He has a balanced stance, with his hands sitting just off his shoulder. He’s quiet in his set without a lot of excess motion. His swing lacks a pronounced trigger; he just shifts his weight, steps and loads a bit, and rips at the ball. His hands are fast and loose, which you like to see, and he gets the head of the bat to the zone very quickly. That allows him to stay back on pitches just a hair longer, which can make a lot of difference on the decision to swing, and making any last-second adjustments to the pitch coming at him. He also finishes his swing well; that’s more notable than it probably should be, as too many hitters check off their finishes, ultimately lessening their batspeed and power potential on any given swing.
All of that adds up to good contact skills for Peterson. Where the questions come up again is in the power department. There’s a wide divide on opinions as to Peteson’s power potential, with some saying he posseses only average power, with some others going as high as plus-plus on their estimation of his power projection. In easier to understand terms, that ranges anywhere from around 15 homers a year to around 35 per season.
Based on what I’ve seen, I’d split the difference and say that Peterson has plus-power projection or a little more, with his annual homer total winding up in the 25-30 range. He definitely has the ability to put a charge in to the ball, and his swing is capable of generating significant loft and backspin. A wonderful example of this was the massive homer he hit on Saturday; he got a 91 MPH fastball a little up in the zone, and cleared the 40-foot high netting in left field easily. Now, the wall is only about 340 feet away from home plate where it cleared, but with the netting under consideration (he cleared it with probably 10 feet to spare and almost hit a building across the street), that was a ball that would have been out in any stadium in the game.
While that’s a nice number, it could be somewhat problematic if Peterson is indeed forced to move to first base. To be considered a quality first baseman, the bar for offensive production is much higher than other positions because the defensive contributions are so much lower. While it seems likely that Peterson should be able to produce enough for his bat to play well at third base or in the outfield, it’s much less certain that his projection meets that “quality” line. I think he has a good chance of making it, but it’s definitely a high bar to reach.