With Chase Headley on the disabled list, the San Diego Padres promoted infield prospect Jace Peterson to the big league roster this weekend. Obviously this gives us no choice but to make Peterson today's Prospect of the Day.
Jace Peterson was drafted by the Padres in the supplemental first round in 2011, from McNeese State University in Louisiana. He was a two-sport player and a fine cornerback in football, but baseball was his ultimate vocation after he hit .335/.449/.473 with 30 steals as a junior. He swiped 51 more with a .286/.378/.392 line in the Low-A Midwest League with Fort Wayne in '12, then followed up with a .303/.386/.454 mark and 42 more steals for Lake Elsinore in the High-A California League in '13.
He was hitting a similarly productive .311/.386/.392 in 18 games for Double-A San Antonio in the Texas League before his promotion this year. His relative rates of production have been solid: 122 wRC+ in '12, 121 in '13, and 138 so far in '14. He's stolen 136 bases in 172 attempts in his career with a composite line of .283/.376/.400.
Listed at 6-0, 205, Peterson is a left-handed hitter born May 9, 1990. He's playing third base for the Padres but almost all of his minor league experience is at shortstop. Although his arm strength and natural range are considered just average at short, his instincts are sound and he should be fine at third base if the Padres choose to play him there. He has almost no experience at second base but his tools would play there as well. Eventually he could fit as a super-utility player, but he wouldn't harm a team at shortstop as long as he lives up to his offensive potential.
Peterson doesn't have a ton of home run power but he's not punchless and can drive pitches to the gaps. He is an adept contact hitter with a good feel for the strike zone, posting virtually even BB/K ratios (175/183 in his career thus far). He can bunt and do the "little ball" things, and while his running speed is just a tick above average, he is a very good baserunner with an excellent career success percentage.
Given his lack of upper-level minor league experience, it would surprise no one if Peterson struggles initially in the majors. However, his tools are solid and his broad base of skills, particularly his combination of on-base ability and stolen base potential, makes him one of the more intriguing infield prospects around. He should wind up with considerable value for both a real team and a fantasy squad.