ARLINGTON -- The Rangers selected DJ Peters in the 36th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Peters ultimately returned to Western Nevada College for his sophomore season, after which he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 4th round the following year.
Peters had spent his entire professional career with Los Angeles until last week, when he was designated for assignment by the organization. That allowed the Rangers to claim his off waivers on Aug. 2, which Peters described as a full-circle moment for him.
“It’s definitely something new,” Peters said. “I’m really fortunate that the Rangers called my name. I’m really fortunate to be here. I absolutely love the Dodgers' organization. They will always have, you know, a special place in my heart being I grew up there. I was actually hoping I would be picked up by the Rangers. It’s familiar, so it kind of feels like home already.”
It’s familiar in more ways than one. Peters also crossed paths with Rangers manager Chris Woodward and hitting coach Luis Ortiz during their times with the Dodgers. He was even teammates this season with pitcher Dennis Santana, who Texas received in a June 17 trade.
When asked about Peters, Woodward raved about his performance during Dodgers Spring Training in 2017, adding that his energy was relentless every day he stepped on the field.
Woodward said Peters was always a guy he kept his eye on, even after he took over as Texas' manager. He was also shocked the Rangers were able to snag Peters, who was ranked as the Dodgers' No. 15 prospect (now No. 27 for the Texas), off waivers without giving anything up in return.
“The fact that he wasn't performing as well, maybe people were a little bit scared of him, but the fact that I know him and his makeup personally, we'll see,” Woodward said. “He's got a lot to prove. Hopefully, when given an opportunity, our hitting guys can really impact him and we'll see what we got. But yes, I was surprised with this kid’s talent and makeup [that he was available].”
Peters is a surprisingly athletic outfielder for his size -- at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds -- but Woodward said Peters “plays with his hair on fire.” Rangers third-base coach Tony Beasley, who also coaches outfielders defensively, said that he liked his first impression of Peters and his ability to play free in the field.
Peters can play all three outfield positions well, but mainly slotted in at center for the Dodgers. As of now, he’s likely to play more right field following the Joey Gallo trade and David Dahl's departure, but he very well could be a solid defensive outfielder alongside Adolis García and Eli White.
“This guy's really, really impressive,” Woodward said. “The relentless energy that this guy had, he's just very cerebral, but he's also a ballplayer. He just goes out and plays really, really hard, which I appreciate. He’s not afraid to accept criticism, which was the thing that stood out to me. He wanted to learn, wanted to grow, was always asking questions. It was kind of a no-brainer when I found out this guy was available.”
After making his MLB debut earlier this season, Peters went 5-for-26 in 18 games. During that time, he hit .400 against right-handers, but just .143 against left-handers.
Peters, who slashed .265/.322/.434 in Triple-A Oklahoma City in July, said he spent a lot of time working on getting back to himself. He dove into more film and worked on fixing small mechanical things to drive the ball forward and use his pure power to his advantage.
“DJ is a big-time package,” Ortiz said. “You see the size, the speed, the athleticism and you see the power. He wants to win. He loves playing baseball. He's passionate. He's one of the most coachable players I've ever been around to the extreme. He's just a special kid that wants it really badly. We're so blessed to have him. He has the work ethic, so the sky can be the limit for him.”
Peters emphasized how blessed he is to have the opportunity to play and stick around at the big league level for the Rangers.
“I think here in Texas, we're gonna have something very, very special in the coming years,” he said.