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Athleticism jumps off the page for Padres' Peterson

One look at San Diego Padres shortstop prospect Jace Peterson, and it is obvious he is an athlete. He just has that toned, fit look.

Watching him play shortstop for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore in the California League, his physical presence converts to athletic ability and projectable tools.

Peterson is ranked as the Padres' 11th-best prospect by

Prior to being selected in the supplemental first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft by the Padres, Peterson was a successful dual-sport athlete at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La.

Peterson played wide receiver and shortstop for the Division I Cowboys. Among his lengthy list of awards and honors is the fact that he set a school record with 78 career stolen bases.

Peterson doesn't have one overwhelming tool that will propel him to the Major Leagues. What he does have is a wide range of average to above-average skills that he is continuing to refine in the Padres' Minor League system. He has a willingness to play the game with intensity and an outstanding work ethic. He hustles. He plays hard.

Peterson is six feet, 205 pounds. He's a left-handed hitter, which is a plus as a shortstop.

Peterson is best suited as a top-of-the-order hitter that uses the entire field with a compact, albeit rather flat, swing. He doesn't generate much loft on the ball, but his extension is solid, and he makes contact. In parts of three professional seasons, he has struck out only 154 times in 1,220 plate appearances.

Peterson has good pitch recognition and an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. Even though he likes to put the bat on the ball, he had a nice walk rate in his first two seasons. That's continuing this year.

Perhaps the highlight of Peterson's offense is his instinctive baserunning and quick first step out of the box. He isn't super fast in the true sense of scouting evaluation, but he's skilled enough to be a baserunning threat. In fact, in his short career, he's already stolen 118 bases, while being caught only 28 times.

A line-drive, gap-type hitter, Peterson does not generate much power. He will, however grab his share of doubles and triples with good baserunning and that highly useable quickness and efficient speed.

Defensively, Peterson will make the plays. His instincts may get ahead of his movements at times. I've seen a bit of awkward footwork, but the job got done.

Peterson's arm is strong enough without being overpowering. Again, his tools are average and not overwhelming.

Peterson projects to be a capable shortstop offering either everyday ability as his ceiling or utility play if needed. He brings energy and ability in a combination of assets that every manager covets.

As the future unfolds, it is likely the Padres can insert Peterson on their Major League roster and enjoy his eagerness to succeed.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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