The Oakland A's have had a number of prospects have good seasons and move up the organizational ladder in 2012. Add outfielder Shane Peterson to the list.
Just like A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily, Peterson started the season with Double-A Midland before earning a promotion to Triple-A. Peterson's promotion to Sacramento came on July 2 after he hit .274/.441/.420 with the Rockhounds. His 862 OPS with the Rockhounds was a new career-high during his four years in the Texas League. But since joining the River Cats, he has raised the bar even higher.
In 19 games with the River Cats, Peterson is hitting .407/.507/.610 in a hot streak that parallels the A's surge through July that put them in the thick of the race for a Wild Card berth.
"I really can't explain it," Peterson said. "I've swung the bat better but not so much better to explain the jump. The PCL is definitely a better hitters' league than the Texas League."
Peterson made 46 appearances for the River Cats last year, amassing an 856 OPS, taking some of the surprise out of his production in 2012. But he became a victim of the numbers game last year and this season. Last year, despite his strong play with Sacramento, he was sent back to Double-A for the final few months of the season when the River Cats' roster filled with too many outfielders. Then this spring, Peterson's path to Triple-A was blocked again when Oakland acquired several major league and Triple-A outfielders in the winter.
With Grant Green, Michael Taylor, Brandon Moss and Jermaine Mitchell needing at-bats with the River Cats, Peterson was sent back to Midland to start his fourth season of his five-year career with the Rockhounds. He has a 750 career OPS with the Rockhounds.
But the promotion of Moss to Oakland and the A's desire to give Green some time back in the infield allowed Peterson to make it back up Triple-A. He remains off the 40-man roster, but that could change if the A's want to see if his bat translates to the major leagues in September.
"He uses the whole field. He's got power to the whole field. He's not a power hitter," River Cats manager Darren Bush said.
"He's a gap-to-gap guy. But he has the power to leave the entire ballpark. He's going to be patient. He's going to play little ball. He can do whatever you need him to do."
Known for his speed more than his power, Peterson managed double-digit homers in 2009 when he played for three different teams. That was the same summer that he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals organization to Oakland's as one-third of the package sent in exchange for Matt Holliday. Pitcher Clayton Mortensen and infielder Brett Wallace rounded out the package. Peterson is the only player remaining in the A's system from that deal.
"I feel like I have an all around approach," Peterson said. "Definitely this year I've tried to utilize my speed. I feel like it's been underrated in the past. I've stopped trying to be a player I'm not. I'm not going to his 30 home runs.
"[I'm] trying to do everything I can to help the team win and get the recognition and numbers to get me to the next level."
As much as he hates to admit it, the former second-round pick understands it's unlikely he will sustain such a high level of production for the rest of the season. But he's already prepared mentally for any forthcoming statistical drop-off.
"It's really tough for me trying not to think about that. You can get to yourself, like ‘Today's the day I'm going to go 0-4.' You almost prepare yourself to fail. That's what you have to stay away from," he said.
"Eventually it's going to go down. No one's going to hit .400 or .500 for the whole season. When it does happen, you just have to realize it's going to happen and remember what you were doing when it was going good and try to get back to that spot."
What Peterson likely doesn't have to worry about is a demotion back to Midland. His sample in Double-A is undoubtedly sufficient enough. Despite hitting .274, his .441 on-base clip and 21.5 percent walk rate this year have proven he needs to face better competition.
Peterson suffered a high ankle sprain earlier on May 28, but it hasn't had any lingering effects on his performance since he returned from the disabled list.
It has been a few years since the A's have seen so many prospects elevate their play like they have in 2012. The barrage of rookies helping the A's get to the top of the Wild Card standings has had a lasting impact throughout the organization, Peterson included.
"Seeing guys go up there who you have played with here – who have done certain things here – they go up and do well, you're like ‘Yeah, they're doing well. I can do it too. It's just getting the opportunity,'" Peterson said.
The impression is even more personal for Peterson, who played with Griffin and Straily to start the year. Both players have made it to the major leagues after their stellar seasons accelerated them throughout the organization.
Peterson could be next, but he would need a lot to go his way considering the depth in the outfield on Oakland's roster. If the A's track record this season is any indication, however, things could change quickly.