MadFriars' Interview: Dustin Peterson

FORT WAYNE - When you go to a short-season game and are looking at players that are 18 and 19 the most important aspect of evaluation is not the numbers they are putting up but do they have the ability to become a major league player?

Can they hit a 90 mile-per-hour fastball or can they throw one?

What are their secondary pitches does a player look like he could play a position up the middle, run or hit with power.

Consistency, which in the end will determine who is and who isn’t a major league player, becomes much more important as players move forward.

But at this age and this time, the key is to find out whether a player is capable of becoming a major league player.

This year the Fort Wayne TinCaps are fielding a team with four everyday players that are 19 and younger and one of the most prominent is third baseman Dustin Peterson, 19, who was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft out of Gilbert High School in Gilbert, Arizona.

Peterson’s brother D.J., who is three years older and played at the University of New Mexico, was a first round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in the same draft and is currently with AA Jackson in the Southern League.

This year Peterson has exemplified the highs and lows of young player playing on his first full season team, which means 140 games and about six games a week.

On the positive side he is second in the league in doubles (25) and RBI with (66) but has also made 31 errors, mostly throwing, at third base.

However, 12 of them came in April and have been declining every month. At the plate he is striking out a little more than once a game, but also has 100 hits in 89 games.

What does it mean?

The ability is there, it’s now just a question of refinement.

But then again, that is what the minor leagues are about, development.

You are averaging nearly an RBI a game and hitting in the number two hole. How are you doing that?

Dustin Peterson: I’m just getting lucky to have a guy on base because the guys in front of me are doing a good job. It’s my job to drive them in and so far I’ve been able to do that.

What is the difference between hitting in the Midwest League as opposed to the Arizona League last year?

Dustin Peterson: The pitching is better because guys know where they are throwing the ball. You face more guys that were higher picks, so they are also better with their secondary stuff.

Guys who have played in the AZL always say that the pitchers down there throw just as hard, but aren’t sure where it is going all the time. Those must be some interesting at-bats?

Dustin Peterson: [laughs] Yeah, that is not a lot of fun. But you just have to be on your toes and be ready for a pitch that you can drive.

You have moved over to third base as a professional after being a shortstop your whole life. what has been the biggest adjustment on moving to third?

Dustin Peterson: The biggest adjustment is things are much quicker. At short you have a little more time to come around the ball and get set. At third you are fielding it and then you have to come up throwing.

The biggest change for me is the speed.

Is the footwork more difficult because of the speed?

Dustin Peterson: Yes, but the big key is making sure that you are ready over there because the ball is being smoked.

It’s been said its the closest you can come to being a hockey goalie in baseball.

Dustin Peterson: [laughs] I’m not exactly sure what that is like but it sounds about right.

I was here early yesterday and you were taking a lot of ground balls after batting practice and then making extra throws to first base. Is that something you do every day?

Has that been your biggest problem with the errors this year, just being in a different position?

Dustin Peterson: It happens you are going to make errors and you just have to work harder so you don’t do them again.

I usually take a lot of ground balls and make as many throws as I can, the more the better.

The ball doesn’t seem to fly out of here as much as in Arizona or is that something that you have really noticed?

Dustin Peterson: I haven’t noticed that much. I’m just going at it as best as I can. If I can put a hard swing on it, it’s going to go.

You are 19, away from home for the first time. How has that been going?

Dustin Peterson: It’s new and the weather at the beginning was something to get used too. It was freezing.

Hitting in the cold with a wooden bat can’t be a lot of fun.

Dustin Peterson: [laughs] No, it’s not the best situation. But we finally got through it now and right now it’s a great place to play.

I’ve spoken to you now a few times and it seems like you really strive for the even keel, not to high, not too low.

Dustin Peterson: It’s a game of failure and you can’t let it beat you up. I kind of knew what to expect. You are going to make errors, strikeout and lose sometimes.

But you are also going to fight through it.

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