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While the Mariners continue their search for a major league right-handed hitter to help balance out the roster for the second-half postseason push, it seems clear they won’t have that problem in the next few years.
On Sunday at Target Field, two of Seattle’s top right-handed hitting prospects – infielder D.J. Peterson and outfielder Gabriel Guerrero – showcasedc their talents in the Sirius XM Futures Game.
Peterson, who has played the bulk of his professional career at third base, started at first base for the United States team, while Guerrero got the start as designated hitter.
Neither played a prominent role in the United States’ 3-2 win. Peterson went 1-for-2 with a sizzling line drive double off the left field wall. Guerrero went 0-for-2. His hard line drive to left was caught in the fifth inning.
But for both, the chance to play in the game was an accomplishment and an honor.
“It’s a blessing,” Peterson said. “I’m just happy I got chosen to be among these elite minor league prospects.”
Guerrero was all smiles pregame, talking with an assortment of people, posing for pictures and signing autographs
“Just excited to be here,” he said.
For Peterson, playing first base could be a sign of the future. He was drafted as a third baseman out of the University of New Mexico with the Mariners’ first pick (12th overall) of the 2013 draft. But with Kyle Seager entrenched at third base, there is a belief that Peterson’s big league future is first base.
He played first a handful of times with Class A High Desert, where he spent the first half of the season. Since being called up to Class AA Jackson on June 24, he’s played exclusively at third base. But he’s open to anything.
“I feel confident at either position,” he said. “Wherever they want to play me is where I’m good to play. If they want to slide me over to first, I will play first. I do feel defensively I’m showing the organization that I’m much better third baseman than people expected. I’m just going continue to work hard at third and if they want to move me over to first I will work hard there.”
It’s Peterson’s bat that will carry him to the big leagues. He has a chance to be the right-handed hitter with pop the Mariners have lacked.
Peterson hit .326 (89×273) with 23 doubles, a triple, 18 home runs and 73 RBI with High Desert to earn the call-up. The numbers are more impressive considering he hit just .269 with a .724 OPS in April.
“I think I tried to do a little too much the first month,” Peterson said. “Everyone hears about the Cal League and High Desert and how much the ball flies there,” Peterson said. “I think I tried to do too much. That short left field wall was yelling at me every game.”
With small parks and the wind blowing out, Peterson found himself trying to pull pitches into the air for homers. It worked against him.
“When I’m on, I’m using right center, left center and the right field line,” he said. “But that wasn’t part of my game that first month, I was dead pull. It wasn’t good. Once I settled down, got back into my approach, it all started clicking for me.”
It’s continued to click for him at Class AA Jackson, where he’s hitting .290 with four doubles, three homers and seven RBI in 15 games with the Generals.
Peterson won’t allow himself to think about the big leagues even as he inches closer with each extra base hit. He’s not on the 40-man roster yet, which is required for a September call-up. But it seems certain he will be at big league spring training next year.
“The organization has a plan for me,” he said. “I’m not trying to think past their plan. I’m just going to do what they ask. If it’s this year, next year, the year after, they know what they are doing and they know what they want to do for me. ”
At just 20 years old, Guerrero isn’t as advanced as Peterson, but the potential is there. He’s hitting .300 with 18 doubles, nine homers and 60 RBI with a .773 OPS in 87 games.
“It’s been good,” Guerrero said. “I’ve been enjoying it. Sometimes I’ve had bad moments. Most of the time, I’m just trying to have fun and work hard every day.”
Guerrero turned plenty of heads on Sunday during batting practice, spraying line drives all over the field. But it’s his striking resemblance to his uncle, former all-star outfielder Vlad Guerrero, that had people talking.
Guerrero wears his pants high on his waist, has freakishly long arms and goes without batters gloves just like his uncle. Beyond appearance, he also has a free-swinging approach and ultra-strong throwing arm like Vlad.
“He’s exactly like his uncle,” Peterson said. “Exact same player, he slashes at everything. He’s able to hit a ball off the ground and hit it out. Tremendous power, tremendous arm strength. He has an absolute cannon. ”
Even opponents can see it.
“It’s unreal how much he looks like him,” said Corey Seager, who plays in the Cal League for the Dodgers organization. “He back picks people at first base, he’s got a cannon, he’s pretty much got the same swing, he’s a good player. If it doesn’t bounce, he’s swinging and he hits everything so it doesn’t matter.”
In every interview on Sunday, Guerrero was asked about his uncle. He answered the questions with a big smile.
“Every time they ask me,” he said. “It’s almost every day. It’s ok. I’m proud of it.”