With Taijuan Walker gone, there are only two Mariners of real consequence left competing for the Surprise Saguaros in this year’s Arizona Fall League: Patrick Kivlehan and D.J. Peterson (apologies to Stephen Landazuri, John Hicks, Matt Anderson, and Scott DeCecco).
But while both excelled at both High Desert and Jackson this season, posting OPS numbers above .800, only Kivlehan has seen success this October.
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In 12 games, the former Rutgers standout is 15 for 48 (.313 AVG) with 4 HR and 13 RBI. His 1.036 OPS is sixth in the league and the best when only considering those with 35 or more AB.
By outpacing teammates including outfielders Rusney Castillo and Hunter Renfroe (a 2013 first round pick who I at the time of the Amateur Draft wanted the M’s to take 12th over Peterson), even in this limited sample size, Kivlehan is setting himself to enter 2015 as a confident 25-year old ready to make the jump to Tacoma in short order.
On the other hand, Peterson has failed to duplicate his 2014 power numbers in an environment conducive to offense. Batting just 8 for 38 (.211 AVG) with just a single homer, the only silver lining on his stat sheet is a team-high 9 BB. But just getting base will not satisfy the front office down the road.
In order to play at first base or DH at some point down the road (since the hot corner is taken for the foreseeable future) on a major league offense, a term that can be loosely applied to the M’s order, he will need be what Mike Zunino was in 2014 with a better average. Otherwise, Seattle will be stuck with just a newer version of 2014 Corey Hart and Kendrys Morales, and while we all saw what the team did in spite of those two, it’s about time for the key power positions to pick up some slack.
Now is certainly not the time to panic with Peterson, but a prolonged slump through the AFL that works its way into Spring Training can certainly postpone the best years of what the Mariners hope to be a fruitful career.
Whether we should put any stock at all into the Arizona Fall League, given the month-long layoff and lower level of competition, is debatable. But if anything can be taken away from the first two weeks, it’s that expect D.J. Peterson to, like Zunino the year before him, be one of the first of his draft class in the majors. If his performance so far is any indication, there are still a few kinks to iron out before he reaches the show.