I got an email yesterday from an Oakland Athletics fan asking me if Shane Peterson was for real. Peterson is having a great spring thus far, hitting .409/.469/.659 with five walks and eight strikeouts in 44 at-bats.
This was my take pre-season in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book.
Shane Peterson, OF-1B, Oakland Athletics
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-0 WT: 195 DOB: February 11, 1988
2009: Grade C+; 2010: Grade C; 2011: Grade C; 2012: Grade C
Shane Peterson has been moving on and off prospect lists for years, but is back on again after being added to the 40-man roster for 2013. A line drive hitter with very good strike zone judgment, his best defensive position is first base, but he lacks the power to play there regularly. He's not terrible in left or right field, although his below average range and speed precludes use in center, and again he doesn't provide enough power to force his way into a regular corner job. He does provide on-base percentage however, working counts well and making enough contact to generate solid batting averages. His versatility and hitting skills could make him useful on a bench. Grade C.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT: Peterson is a career .286/.379/.419 hitter in the minor leagues. A second round pick by the Cardinals in 2009 out of Long Beach State, he was traded to Oakland in 2009 in the Matt Holliday trade.
I've seen him several times in Double-A and Triple-A the last few years. He is easy to overlook and is not one of those guys who really stands out for his tools, but then you look at the scorecard and he's gone 2-fo-3 with a walk against a good pitcher, plus a nifty defensive play in the outfield (or first base; I've seen both from him).
I've also seen him beaten by good pitching, but he'll punish any mistake and his overall approach and batting eye helps. I didn't mention it in the book comment, but he's also an aggressive and skilled base-runner despite his lack of big speed.
Peterson has shown good on-base ability and occasional pop in the upper minors, although not enough to rate as a premium corner prospect, granted he was very sharp in a small Triple-A sample last year (.389/.414/.618 in 39 games). The hot spring obviously doesn't hurt his cause, but it isn't enough for us to ignore his entire track record of course.
In the old days he could likely carve a career as a late-inning pinch-hitter and platoon player. That's tougher work to find nowadays with giant pitching staffs, shorter benches, and the DH, although at age 25 he still has time to find a niche as a solid role player.
The most likely outcome is that Peterson will float between Triple-A and the majors for the next ten years, providing depth but never seizing a permanent roster spot. However, he is entering the career window when some players spike power, and it would not surprise me at all to see him have an "out of nowhere" season this year or next.
Overall, Peterson is not a top-notch prospect, but he's not a bum either and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.