The Arizona League offers an opportunity for rookie position players and pitchers to become acclimated to life as a professional baseball player.
Granted, it's hot in the evenings, and the infields are hard. That aspect doesn't change much from season to season in the desert. It's difficult playing in intense heat.
I had an opportunity to get several looks at San Diego Padres prospect Dustin Peterson as he played for the Arizona Padres this summer.
Peterson came to the Padres in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. He was the 50th player selected.
Peterson hit .540 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs during his senior season at Gilbert High School in Arizona. He had committed to Arizona State University but instead signed with the Padres.
Peterson's older brother D.J. was chosen by the Seattle Mariners as the 12th overall selection in the same Draft. The older Peterson attended the University of New Mexico.
Dustin Peterson played shortstop in high school, but he has been moved to third base by the Padres. He has played 30 games at third and has served as a designated hitter six times.
At this point, Peterson's hitting is more advanced than his defense.
In the Arizona League, Peterson is hitting .291 with no homers and 18 RBIs in 165 plate appearances.
Peterson is the type of hitter that will be able to extend the length of the lineup with good plate discipline and pitch recognition. He has the ability to make consistent contact, frequently hitting the ball solidly on the barrel of the bat. And he looks to take the pitch where it is thrown.
Only 18, at this early point of his development, Peterson has a nice, easy swing without trying to extend his capabilities and hit home runs. His swing is polished and mature. There is little movement in his setup, his trigger or at the point of contact regarding his hitting mechanics.
At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Peterson's right-handed swing is measured and compact. He swings as though he is happy to be using the entire field. He's patient enough to realize his power will come in time as he fills out with more strength and muscle.
The key to Peterson at this stage is his ability to use his strong hands and quick wrists to get through the ball quickly and with good extension. As I saw when I scouted him in Arizona, he is hitting line drives without much loft or backspin on the ball. Those components generally develop at full maturity.
If there is any concern regarding Peterson's overall game, it has to be his defense. So far, he has made 14 errors in 80 total chances.
Since Peterson is likely to add inches and weight to his frame, it will be difficult for him to return to the shortstop position he once played. There are issues with his first-step quickness and range that could be exposed at any infield position other than third base. Eventually, and with sufficient development instruction and repetition, he could become an adequate third baseman. He has enough arm strength and carry on the ball to play that position. However, I don't see him having enough speed to play the outfield.
Peterson is a player with projectable size, strength and bat speed to develop into a power hitter. He has the natural ability to evolve into the type of hitter that can drive in runs and extend innings with good, selective at-bats.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.