Tale of the Tape
Age on Draft Day: 21 years, 5 mos.
Weight: 235 lbs.
Last week, I posted a profile of a talented college pitcher with a known track record who probably won’t be available when the Astros pick at 1.15 in June. Today is another college pitcher, but one who’s flown under the radar in a lesser-known baseball conference and doesn’t have blow-away stuff - still, David Peterson is putting together an incredible season in Eugene, Oregon and looks to be climbing rapidly into the first round among and among the “second tier” of college starters behind Wright, Bukauskas and Faedo.
Peterson was previously drafted in the 28th round in 2014 by Boston out of Denver, CO. Instead of signing he went to Oregon, and experienced so-so results in his first two seasons on their staff - average strikeout numbers, average walk rates, that sort of thing. This season though? Peterson turned himself into a high-K, low-BB demigod.
K% and BB% are important metrics for evaluating draft prospects. Even though stat lines and box scores tell significantly less than 50% of what a draft prospect is really all about, those two metrics paint a good picture of a pitcher’s stuff and control - Jeff Luhnow even mentioned those statistics as important indicators (for pitchers and hitters) for evaluating players during a spring training interview a few months ago.
Stats are fun though, and Peterson enjoyed one of the best single-game statistical performances in Oregon baseball history with a 20 strikeout game against Arizona State last month. I’ll be referencing the findings from that game a lot (from this article), but keep in mind that’s probably the best game Peterson has ever pitched.
Even if Peterson’s huge uptick should catch the eye of the Astros player evaluators, there’s more to him than just those numbers. He’s harnessed what was a raw concoction of pitches from his high school days into a four-pitch arsenal that all could project as average or better in the majors.
Peterson has rocketed up draft boards due to his fastball-slider combination. His fastball has been at a consistent 90-94 mph this season, definitely in line with comfortable major league norms even if Peterson isn’t very projectable. In that 20 K game, Peterson displayed advanced glove-side movement on his fastball. He throws the slider, which is already an above-average pitch but flashes plus, in the low 80s and mixes in an average changeup (which he did not throw in the 20 K game, suggesting that offering will need more development at the pro level) and a currently below-average curveball. His delivery is pretty generic- it’s a smooth approach to the plate from a 3⁄4 arm slot and there don’t seem to be any present concerns about his throwing mechanics moving to the pro level.
Peterson’ stuff isn’t overwhelming - if it was, he would certainly be in the conversation as a top five pick as a left-handed starter (and maybe closer to Bumgarner-lite). Even so, that mix of stuff and junior-year performance is looks more enticing from a southpaw, and he’s used excellent and improved control (based on the drop in walk rate) to work consistently in the zone. Peterson could be finding his upside as a pitcher, just in time for draft day.
Projected Draft Range
Peterson has as much prospect helium as any player right now. He’s currently at #31 in MLB.com’s latest draft rankings, but other publications and mock drafts have him going in the 10-20 range, which is probably more likely.
Does he make sense for the Astros?
As referenced earlier, I think Peterson’s elite strikeout and walk metrics this season would make him an appealing pick for the Astros. If you buy into the narrative that the Astros “need” more left-handed starters in the system (I would rather the team draft BPA instead of on need), Peterson makes sense as well.
Will He Sign?
Few college players perform this well in the late spring to launch themselves into top 15 consideration, and he’s cashed in after deciding on Oregon over Boston in 2014, so he should sign.
Major League Comparison
Peterson’s head coach at Oregon compared his outing to “Kershaw or Bumgarner” - I suppose that could happen over one start, but that’s obviously an optimistic comparison for a pitcher’s future. Peterson’s absolute ceiling could be Bumgarner, but realistically I’d go with Brett Anderson.