By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — D.J. Peterson has a role model.
The Seattle Mariners’ first-round draft pick began his professional career in earnest Monday when he reported to the Everett AquaSox, and his goal is to follow in the footsteps of the last first-round pick to make his way through Everett.
Mike Zunino, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2012, made his professional debut with the AquaSox last summer, and less than a year later he finds himself in the big leagues. Now Peterson wants to follow suit.
“My plan is to be up in a year, but you never know,” said Peterson, who spent his first game with the Sox on Monday, though he was not in the starting lineup.
“I just like how (the Mariners) move guys up,” Peterson added. “Zunino obviously was up in a year. (Nick) Franklin was drafted out of high school and he moved up pretty fast. (Kyle) Seager got moved up fast.”
Peterson is planning on being next name in line.
The Mariners selected Peterson, a 21-year-old from Gilbert, Ariz., 12th overall out of the University of New Mexico. He was considered one of the best college bats available, a player with a good approach who has a chance to hit for both average and power.
The numbers reinforce that notion. Peterson is coming off back-to-back monster seasons with the Lobos. In 2012 as a sophomore he hit .419 with 17 home runs and 78 RBI in 61 games. He followed that up this spring as a junior by hitting .408 with 18 homers and 72 RBI in 55 games. While those numbers were produced in a hitter-friendly environment (New Mexico led the nation in batting at .334 and is regularly among the national leaders), Peterson was the unquestioned offensive leader on a team that had seven players selected in the draft.
Peterson signed less than a week after being drafted, as early as a first-round pick has signed with the Mariners in recent memory. He spent last week in Seattle, returned home to spend the weekend with his family, then arrived in Everett on Monday in time to take pre-game batting practice.
“It was good,” Peterson said of his first BP. “I got the hiccups out of the way. This is my first day, I’m pretty pumped, pretty excited, a little nervous with some butterflies, but I’m ready to go.”
One of the reasons why Peterson was eager to sign was his comfort level with the Mariners organization. That makes sense, considering this wasn’t the first time the Mariners drafted Peterson. Seattle picked Peterson in the 33th round of the 2010 draft out of high school.
“I was very excited,” Peterson said about being drafted by the Mariners. “They’re the team that drafted me out of high school, and I told my advisor in August I thought Seattle would be a good fit. I’m from Gilbert, Ariz., and (the Mariners) complex in Peoria is a 40-minute drive away. So it was a good fit.”
Peterson played third base at New Mexico. One of the questions about Peterson heading into the draft was whether his future in professional baseball is at third base or at first base. For the time being, it seems the Mariners plan on seeing what Peterson can do at third.
“That’s something we’re still talking about (with the Mariners brass), but I’d say he’s primarily going to be a third baseman,” Sox manager Rob Mummau said about how he planned on deploying Peterson. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays a little first base, too.”
Said Peterson: “I see myself as a third baseman as of right now. But I don’t know what the future has to hold. If my future is first base in the big leagues, that’s what I’ll go do. Right now it’s at third and I’ll just take it day to day.”
Now that Peterson has joined the Sox, his first task is getting adjusted to the professional game.
“It’s just getting used to swinging the wood, getting the feel again,” Peterson said about his first priorities. “I’ve had two weeks off, so it’s just getting the little hiccups out, getting ready to play and move myself up to the big leagues.”
So will Peterson’s stay with the Sox be similar to Zunino’s? Zunino spent a month in Everett and was dominating, batting .373 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in just 29 games before making the jump to double-A Jackson.
“Zunino ended up being here a whole month, but with Peterson it would be speculation at this point,” Mummau said about Peterson’s possible schedule, adding that Peterson would make his Everett debut later this week.
“I haven’t been told anything quite yet,” Peterson said. “Hopefully I’m here for a little bit and then up to double-A, but I don’t know.”
But everyone — Peterson, the Sox and the Mariners — is hoping Peterson is on the same track.