If there’s one area of player development that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the management team of the Dodgers have mastered during their tenures in Los Angeles, it’s giving an inflated number of organizational prospects the opportunity to perform on the highest stage of the game. In doing so, it appears as if the crew has created a “fast track” of sorts to the big leagues, especially for the younger players who stand out amongst their peers in terms of skills and baseball savvy.
This expert maneuvering particularly stood out during the 2016 major league season, when two prospects, outfielder Andrew Toles and pitcher Brock Stewart, began the year with High-A Rancho Cucamonga and climbed to the very top the organizational ladder. All this while the club was fully stocked with capable, older veterans who could have easily filled the big league squad’s need.
Other prospects such as Trevor Oaks, Mitchell White, and Walker Buehler may have been the headliners during the youth movement of 2017 spring training, yet the Dodgers have an outfielder in 21-year-old DJ Peters who began turning heads immediately in his first year in the system.
Not long after being selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Western Nevada College, the right-handed hitting Peters was quickly ushered to the short-season Pioneer League, where he posted an impressive slash line of .351/.437/.615 with 24 doubles and 13 home runs over 302 plate appearances for the Ogden Raptors. Coincidentally, Peters finished sixth in the league’s individual batting standings, ending his season just a few ticks behind teammate Keibert Ruiz, who posted a .354 average and finished fourth in his own quest for a batting title.
Both Peters and Ruiz were key contributors to the Ogden’s voyage in winning the 2016 South Division crown. Perhaps the biggest milestone of Peters’ 2016 season, though, was collecting six RBIs with a pair of bases-loaded doubles in a victory against Great Falls in early August.
It didn’t take long for his Raptor teammates to give him the nickname of “Wild Man,” mainly for his overwhelming amount of energy and enthusiasm.
“He’s one of those guys you got to slow down sometimes because he wants to go full bore,” said Shaun Larkin, the 2016 manager of the Raptors . “If I asked him to run through this wall and go play a game, he’s going to do it.”
After his first-rate display in rookie league, the management team was so excited by his potential that it allowed Peters to dress for a total of five Cactus League contests this year, providing the opportunities to slug two doubles and score a run in seven total plate appearances.
The 6’6″ native of Glendora is probably best known for his power, but his patience and discipline at the plate is developing early, as was made evidence with his 35 walks in 66 games last season. Home runs aside, scouts within the organization are very pleased by his ability to barrel-up the ball and his capability to drive it to all fields.
MLB Pipeline currently ranks Peters as the Dodgers’ 21st best prospect after his first year in the system, and points out that defensively, “he moves very well for a big man, showing average speed out of the batter’s box and plus speed at times once he gets going. He split his time between center and right field during his first year and fits better at the latter position. Though he needs to refine his reads and routes as a youngster, his strong arm is certainly an asset.”
After an outstanding debut last year at Ogden, Peters may realistically bypass the Midwest League and begin his 2017 regular season with the Quakes in the Cal League. If he continues to produce at a high rate offensively, he could conceivably earn a promotion to the pitcher-friendly confines of the Texas League before season’s end.
A bit further down the road, even with the high number of talented outfielders already ahead of him on the organizational totem pole, the proclaimed “Wild Man” definitely isn’t going to let anything stand in his way of finding a home in the majors.