Mariners Top 20 Prospects: #2 3B/1B D.J. Peterson

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Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners infielder D.J. Peterson during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners infielder D.J. Peterson during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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2016 will be a make or break season for this former top prospect.

D.J. Peterson entered the 2015 as one of the better prospects in baseball, but a steep fall from grace has some questioning whether he will ever reach the Emerald City. There is no denying that Peterson had a miserable campaign last year, but he is still in the running to be the first baseman of the future in Seattle.

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The 24-year-old split last season between the Jackson Generals and the Tacoma Raniers. Peterson began the year in Jackson, where he hit .223 with 7 home runs and 44 RBI through 93 games. He registered a .290 on base percentage and slugged .346 across 393 plate appearances. Peterson struggled to make contact, and he averaged nearly a strikeout per game with the Generals.

Despite his underwhelming production, the M’s opted to promote Peterson to Tacoma in late July. He only appeared in four games with the Rainiers before a strained achillies ended his season. Peterson hit just .214 across 14 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League before suffering the injury.

Seattle was obviously discouraged by Peterson’s showing in 2015, and they sent him to the Arizona Fall League following last season to get some additional work in. Unfortunately, Peterson failed to find his stroke in the desert. He slashed a disappointing .209/.322./.388 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI across 19 games with the Peoria Javelinas. Peterson struck out 18 times and nursed 8 walks in 75 plate appearances.

Originally selected with the 12th pick in the first round of the 2013 draft, Peterson began his professional career with the Everett AquaSox in the Northwest League. He excelled in Everett, hitting .312 with 6 home runs and 27 RBI across 29 games. Peterson posted a .382 on base percentage and slugged .532 in 123 plate appearances.

Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners infielder D.J. Peterson during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners infielder D.J. Peterson during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The M’s were so impressed with Peterson that they promoted him to the Clinton LumberKings midway through the 2013 season. He tore apart the Midwest League, slashing .293/.346/.552 across 107 plate appearances. Peterson slugged 7 home runs and drove in 20 runs through 26 games with the LumberKings.

The former New Mexico Lobo split the 2014 season between the High Desert Mavericks and the Jackson Generals. Peterson was named the M’s Co-Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .297 with 31 home runs and 111 RBI through 123 games with the Mavs and Generals. He posted a .360 on base percentage and slugged .552 across 547 plate appearances. Jackson was an organizational All-Star, and he represented the Mariners at the 2014 Futures Game.

The first sign of danger for Peterson came after the 2014 season had concluded. The Mariners decided to put him on the fast track to Seattle, and they assigned him to the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League. Peterson struggled against the best young players in baseball, hitting just .169 with 1 home run and 6 runs batted in through 16 games.

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Peterson is not an excellent defender, but he is competent at both corner infield spots. He has spent the bulk of his career playing third base, but obviously that will have to change if he hopes to play for the Mariners. Peterson boasts a .921 fielding percentage at the hot corner, and a .995 fielding percentage through 79 games at first base. I expect him to focus on playing first base this season in the minors.

Jerry Dipoto and his staff do not appear to have much faith in the Gilbert, AZ native entering the 2016 season. The Mariners are desperately searching for a platoon partner for Adam Lind at first base, but Peterson was not even invited to big league camp this spring. He is buried on the organizational depth chart behind Jesus Montero, Dae-ho Lee and Gaby Sanchez. Stefen Romero has also seen time this spring at first base.

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It is hard to say what the future holds for D.J. Peterson. He has more than enough talent to be a middle of the order bat in Seattle, but I would not be surprised to see the Mariners trade him at some point in 2016. Peterson may begin the season with the Tacoma Rainiers, but I could also see him being assigned to the Jackson Generals in April. It will be interesting to watch Peterson this season, as his performance this summer will likely dictate his future with the M’s.

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