Name: Jace Peterson
Report Date: 2011 NWL Season (Eugene Emeralds – Rookie Level)
Birthplace: Moss Bluff, La
Overview: The athletically gifted Peterson consistently shows why he was a compensation round – 58th overall – pick for the Padres in 2011. A raw player, Peterson is still learning the ins and outs of the game both in the field and at the plate. He is a high ceiling player whose overall progression depends on when, and if, he is able to transition from an athlete who plays baseball to an athletic baseball player.
Physical Attributes: Peterson is one of those guys who just looks good wearing a baseball uniform. He has a very athletic build, which should come as no surprise as he was also a wide receiver in college. There is some room for growth left on his frame, but no more than 5-10 lbs. His past days as a wide receiver are evident when watching him run. He has an average arm and a tick above average bat speed both of which show room for growth as he gets more time on the diamond.
Hitting: Peterson’s hitting ability is still very unrefined. The swing itself shows signs of promise. He hits from a wide stance with good balance and a soft and quiet front leg, all which put him in a good position to launch his swing. Once the swing initiates, Peterson has good bat speed and a very flat bat plane leading to workable extension. He is a very linear hitter and, while it would be desirable to see him turn on a pitch every once in a while, as a 1 or 2 hole hitter his current approach will not hurt him. He has no trouble keeping his hands inside the ball for fastballs, but is yet to consistently stay inside off-speed pitches. On those pitches he often gets out in front and is not able to use his wrists to drive the ball the other way. His swing is almost all upper body driven. Once he incorporates his lower half then his production will really take off.
As a two-sport athlete it is clear Jace was never able to fully commit to building his swing in the past. One at bat his swing can look textbook and the next he can get himself out on misplaced fastballs or hanging breaking balls. Even with this Jekyll/Hyde paradigm the one encouraging constant is how well he can battle when he is down in the count. If a fan is sitting behind the third base dugout they should be ready when Peterson is down 0-2 because odds are that one of Peterson’s many upcoming foul balls will be sprayed their way.
The truly unrefined aspect of Peterson’s hitting is his approach. As a strong young man there have been times when you can see him over swing and try and do too much. He doesn’t have a great knowledge of the strike zone at this point so he has been prone to taking very hittable strikes and forcing himself to work from behind in the count. Peterson has batted mostly leadoff for the Emeralds this year with mixed results. It can be frustrating to watch at times because he is just as likely to work a hard earned walk as he is to popping out on the first pitch. Current – 35 | Future – 55
Power: At this point, Power is almost a non-factor in Peterson’s game. The two main aspects working against him are his lack of lower half involvement and a very flat bat plane that is not conducive to creating any type of lift. Peterson is never going to be a home run threat but does have the potential to be a double’s machine. He will hit a homer every once in a while because he is decently strong and is beginning to barrel up more pitches. Current – 30 | Future – 40
Speed: 4.0-4.1 seconds to first base. There is no denying he has wheels. His speed makes him a base running threat and adds to his range at shortstop. He gets a good first step out of the box and can get cheap base hits just by beating the ball into the ground. Speed and base running are not one in the same and Peterson definitely needs to improve his base running. He should be stealing left and right off of the NWL catchers but he is not there yet. He doesn’t get the best of jumps, but with some coaching he can improve in this regard. Current – 55 | Future – 65
Fielding: Peterson has no problem getting to almost any groundball at SS. Where he struggles is how he gets there. He creates bad angles for himself especially when going up the middle. Peterson will often sprint to a groundball and then have to try and slow down his feet to make sure he doesn’t overrun it. This leaves his feet all out of whack and he often needs to take that extra recovery step to regain his balance. His actual glove works pretty well. It is not “slick” by any means but he receives groundballs well. With some improvement at short he could become a web gem regular simply based on how far his range extends. Knowing that he is a former wide receiver, it should be no surprise that his best fielding comes when he has to go back on fly balls and protect that “Bermuda Triangle” between the third baseman, shortstop and left fielder. One of the most spectacular plays he made this year was on a play like this (below). Current – 40 | Future – 60
CREDIT: Eugene Emeralds
Arm: His arm is definitely an asset to him at shortstop and will continue to be as he makes some mechanical adjustments. Peterson is slow in actually getting the ball from his glove into his throwing arm. He doesn’t posses a super-quick release yet, but there have been times when he makes a ridiculously-quick throw and everybody wonders if that was the same kid who has been there all game. Events like this are common with somebody as athletically gifted as Peterson. Current – 50 | Future – 55
Conclusion: The tools are all there for this young man to make an impact down the road – “high ceiling” is the phrase that comes to mind. He needs a ton of cage time and work with a skilled coach to truly figure out who he is as a hitter. Peterson needs even more time to iron out his presently weak actions at SS. Defensively and at times offensively he skates by on pure athletic talent. Peterson needs to learn to compliment his offensive and defensive ability via his raw talent rather than rely on it. This will only happen with time and work.
Ceiling: A fast shortstop with regular appearances on highlight reels and the ability to hit anywhere in the lineup besides the middle of the order. Overall, he has a very bright future but it will take lots of game experience and solid coaching before his future begins to actualize.
Likely Outcome: Assuming Peterson makes it to the big league level, he will likely become a 7 or 8 hitter who serves to turn the lineup over with the possibility of hitting leadoff. His athleticism will only carry him so far so don’t be surprised if Peterson seemingly stalls in High-A or Double-A.
Irresponsible Comparison: Somewhere between Alcides Escobar and Erik Aybar with a better hit tool than Escobar and better defensively than Aybar.
Current – 42 | OFP – 55
AOFP – 56, Above average but not quite first-division starter.
Ryan Parker is a contributor to Padres Prospects. Check out his coverage of the Eugene Emeralds at Oregon Baseball Report.