With all the offseason attention that has been given to prospective third basemen and the bullpen of the Los Angeles Dodgers, there hasn’t been much focus on the outfield, especially since the franchise arguably has two of the game’s best players in Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger.
From a depth standpoint, we’ve already taken in-depth looks at some of the top lower-level prospects in the system this winter, including 18-year-old Luis Rodriguez, 20-year-old Andy Pages, and 19-year-old speedster Jake Vogel.
However, one area of the outfield we have yet to examine thoroughly is the group of players who are close to the big-league fringe, which includes names like Zach Reks, Luke Raley, Cody Thomas, and DJ Peters.
For this conversation, we’ll take a detailed look at Peters.
All three of Reks, Raley, and Peters are on the team’s 40-man roster, but Peters is the only right-handed hitter of the trio, perhaps giving him a bit of an advantage, even if it’s through a pinch-hitting/power perspective. What we know for certain at the moment is the main corps of the outfield will be Betts, Bellinger and AJ Pollock, with Chris Taylor having the ability to secondarily cover all three spots.
Additionally, 25-year-old Zach McKinstry, a jack-of-all-trades lefty hitter, promises to contend for a spot on the Opening Day roster. Between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2019, McKinstry saw limited time in all three outfield spots, although most pundits believe his true position is second base—an entirely different conversation topic for another time.
Both Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios have spent a limited amount of time in the outfield as well. In 2019, Beaty played 34 games in left field, mainly when Pollock was sidelined after having surgery to his elbow.
Something else to consider is whether Taylor will garner the lion’s share of playing time at second base or if the team will turn the reigns over to the 23-year-old lefty-hitting Gavin Lux. Should Taylor be given full-time responsibilities in the infield, it might conceivably open the door for Reks, Raley, or Peters to see major league action in the outfield right out of the gate, particularly with the voids that Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez left behind when they entered free agency this winter.
As far as Peters goes, he always draws extremely high praise from both players and coaches at Spring Training. In 2018 as an NRI, he received some of the best reports of all the organizational prospects.
“There’s a lot to like with DJ—the way he works and prepares, and he’s very mature as a baseball player,” skipper Dave Roberts said.
“He’s great,” infielder Justin Turner said. “Awesome. Works his butt off. Always trying to learn. Obviously, he’s big and strong and has a really, really good swing.”
However, now at 25 years old and taking up valuable space on the 40-man, time might be running out for the Glendora native in terms of his big-league window.
Not long after being selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Western Nevada College, 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.
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.”
Seemingly, Peters has racked up almost every possible offensive award in the minors. He was named Player of the Week six times across three levels, he garnered about a dozen All-Star nods, and he was even named the Cal League Player of the Year in 2017, when he slashed .276/.372/.514 with 27 homers, 29 doubles and 82 RBI for High-A Rancho. In 2018, he led Tulsa with 29 bombs in 132 games.
Splitting the 2019 season with Tulsa and OKC, Peters appeared in 68 games for the Drillers, hitting .241 with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 42 RBI while batting .260 (54-for-208) with 10 doubles, 12 homers and 39 RBI in 57 games for Oklahoma City.
Last year, he was a member of the team’s 60-man player pool.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder is probably best known for his power, but he has deceptive speed and athleticism for his size. Defensively, he can handle all three outfield spots, and his arm strength is one of his best assets.
MLB Pipeline currently ranks Peters as the Dodgers’ 11th best prospect, but his days as a prospect are limited, having just turned 25 in December while entering his sixth year in the organization.
In recent seasons, many pundits have criticized Peters for his lack of contact at the plate, which is undoubtedly the primary factor holding him back from emerging in the majors. He’s extremely pull-happy and has a 33 percent strikeout rate in full-season ball. Lately, he has shown some promise with regards to patience and pitch-recognition, perhaps allowing him to still hang around as one of the top outfield options in the system.
There are quite a few factors that will determine his baseball destiny, but if Peters is able to prove he can make consistent contact during 2021 Cactus League play, I believe he will be given at least a few chances to prove his value at the big-league level during the regular season.