By Brent Stecker
On March 9, DJ Peterson went a remarkable 6-for-6 with three home runs, six RBIs and five walks in a doubleheader between his University of New Mexico Lobos and the opposing UC Riverside Highlanders.
Performances like that are a big reason Peterson was labeled as a can’t-miss prospect heading into the 2013 MLB Draft, and why the Mariners took him with the 12th overall pick Thursday despite being unsure what position the 6-foot-1, 205-pound native of Arizona will play.
Peterson, who is a natural third baseman that also has experience at first base, told “Bob and Groz” that he knows his bat is his meal ticket, and he’ll play wherever the Mariners tell him to. It’s good news for the Mariners, considering Kyle Seager looks to have the hot corner locked up for the foreseeable future in Seattle.
“I’m a third baseman, (but) I was groomed (to be a) shortstop. I’m very open (to switching positions),” said Peterson, who led New Mexico with a .408 average, 18 home runs, 72 RBIs and an .807 slugging percentage this spring. “I want to get to the big leagues, I want to help the Mariners as much as I can, and whatever position they decide to play me at is the one I’m gonna play. Whether it’s left field, first base, whatever’s gonna get me to the big leagues and help out the club, I’m gonna play.”
This year’s draft wasn’t the first time the Mariners showed interest in Peterson – they also took him in the 33rd round of the 2010 draft.
“I felt like I had a lot to work on in college. Obviously the Mariners felt like that as well,” Peterson said of his decision not to sign in 2010. “I went to school, I worked on my footwork, my maturity and did all those basic tasks. The Mariners felt I did all that and took a chance at 12 and picked me again.”
His three years at New Mexico certainly helped build his reputation among MLB scouts, and as a result he’ll have to deal with lofty expectations while playing in a Mariners organization that is reeling from disappointing performances by other top offensive prospects.
“I want to go prove everyone what they’re saying is right,” Peterson said. “I’m gonna get up there and show why these scouts are saying ‘Can’t miss with this pick’ and ‘He’s a true, legitimate college pure hitter.’ I’m gonna continue to work and improve. My game is constantly going to be worked on.”
The hope is Peterson can eventually bring some much-needed pop to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, but the worries are that his numbers were inflated in the altitude of New Mexico.
“We have a huge field (at New Mexico) – 405 in the gaps, 420 in center – and I had more homers on the road,” he said. “I think I proved to everyone that the altitude wasn’t my problem, that I did have legitimate power, and I led Team USA with home runs (in 2012), so I felt like that helped my case.”