The Mets watched their present and their future face off — a big, burly left-hander against a smooth, compact, left-handed swing.
Sure, Michael Conforto (10th-overall pick in 2014) launched one to the moon in the spring-training matchup. But David Peterson (20th overall in 2017) often got the better of his new rival, one face of the organization getting a peek at who might be coming next.
If the Mets saw the future they desire, Peterson heard some advice he wants to use to make that future appear. The two talked afterward, Peterson, out of the University of Oregon, absorbing every word the former Oregon State outfielder shared.
“[Conforto] was basically giving me the hitter’s perspective after he faced me,” Peterson said over the phone this weekend. “What threw him off, what was working against him. Having a guy like that, an All-Star, an everyday guy in the big leagues, giving me a hitter’s perspective after facing me, that was huge.
“Even not getting him out was good because it’s something I can work on.”
Conforto shot through the system in a year. It’s a timetable Peterson would welcome.
Peterson was the Mets’ top pick last June, a solidly built 6-foot-6, 240-pound force who looks the part of the Mets’ No. 2-overall prospect, according to MLB.com. The frame is deceptive, which works to his advantage: The 22-year-old has used a low-90s fastball, a plus slider and quality changeup to mow through Low-A Columbia competition this year, carrying a 1.93 ERA in 51 ¹/₃ innings, in which he’s struck out 47 and walked 11. What he lacks in dominance he makes up for with control.
“Peterson has been very impressive and we’re excited by what we see,” Mets director of minor league operations Ian Levin said. “His ability to use all of his pitches effectively and the quality of his secondary stuff really stands out.”
Peterson stands out as the most natural long-term answer for the team’s rotation, the top-ranked arm with the ability to move fast. He’s merely a year removed from posting a 2.51 ERA with 12.56 K’s per nine innings at Oregon, but he has seen the team’s struggles at the major league level and set his aim on being ready to help whenever given the chance .
“The goal after being drafted is not to be a minor leaguer. The goal is to be in the major leagues,” said Peterson, who’s from Denver. “For me, my goal is to get there, and however that happens it’s going to happen. … The only thing I can control is how I go about my business. I think everything’s going to work out.”
The jewel of the Mets’ 2017 draft, has looked like one so far. Behind him are a high-ceiling bat and arms aplenty.
Among the most intriguing prospects in the Mets’ system is also among their youngest. Mark Vientos, their second-round pick last year, was the youngest (17) player chosen on Day 1 of the draft last year, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound right-handed hitter out of Florida who for now projects as a third baseman. He impressed in a pair of rookie leagues last year, slashing .262/.318/.398 with four home runs. The power figures are to come later for a player born on the eve of Y2K, in December 1999.
The Mets are taking it slow with Vientos, who “has been outstanding offensively all extended spring,” Levin said. “He’ll head out to start his official season and will get a lot of important game reps that will serve him well long term.”
The Mets stocked up on pitchers with later draft picks, grabbing six righty college arms from Rounds 4-10. Tony Dibrell, from Kennesaw State, has made an immediate impact in Columbia’s rotation this year, striking out 60 in 51 innings to go along with a 3.88 ERA. Trey Cobb, out of Oklahoma State, is putting together a solid debut season out of the bullpen, saving seven games for Columbia with a 2.50 ERA and 23 K’s in 18 innings.
But one year later — in a league whose draft takes much longer to properly assess — it’s Peterson who looks to be fulfilling the first-round hype.
“At every level you ask, what can I do every day to get myself to the next level,” Peterson said. “I ask that until I get to the major leagues.”
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