“Petey is one of those guys that you see him on the field and he’s not that big so you don’t expect much, but he is one of the smartest guys on the field,” said Anthony Contreras his manager with the Tri-City Dust Devils of the short-season Northwest League in 2015.
“He puts himself in a good position and knows what he wants to do at the plate. He’s a little guy and is not going to hit home runs - and he knows that - but he also knows that he can do a lot of other things to help his team win.”
Van Gansen was a 12th round draft pick by the San Diego Padres in the 2015 draft out of Cal Poly San Louis Obispo where he left after his junior year where hitting 314/.388/.414 and was the Big West Defensive Player of the Year.
With the Dust Devils he hit .267/.352/.352 and was the their lone representative to the All-Star Game as Tri-City posted its best record since 2011 and made it all the way to the finals.
“He was the glue of the team,” said Chris King, the Dust Devil’s play-by-play man. “He was excellent defensively and was better than advertised offensively.”
This season he should be the starting shortstop for the Low-A Fort Wayne TinCaps, on what should again be one of the younger teams in the Midwest League.
Contreras, who will again be his manager with the TinCaps, believes that Van Gansen has only begun to touch how good he can be.
“He can really pick it defensively. He may not be the quickest guy on the field, but he puts himself in the right positions by reading hitter’s swings and understanding what the pitcher is trying to do. You just don’t see that from guys who are right out of college.”
While Van Gansen was happy with his performance last year, he still sees many areas for improvement.
“This off-season I worked really hard on not only getting stronger, but also trying to get faster,” Van Gansen said during a lull in spring training.
“A big thing for me is to get faster, because I would like to be able to steal a few more bases this year. I’ve been working hard on improving my running technique and explosiveness along with my reads of the pitcher.”
The Padres also would like to see him refine his two-strike approach and have him take more of a full cut at the ball believing that his hands are quick enough to generate more line drives than he showed last year.
Because of his size, Van Gansen is never going to rank high on any prospect lists but because of what he did on the field last year he is going to get an opportunity to play every day, which is all any player truly cares about.
“He does things the right way, on and off the field,” said Contreras. “He’s going to help you defensively and give you tough at-bats. Basically, he is going to try to find some way to help you win every day.”
“He’s a very quiet and humble kid and good things usually happen to people like that.”