The area scout who recommended the Royals draft outfielder Kort Peterson did their job, and did it well, finding a potential future big leaguer in the 23rd round of the 2016 draft. Peterson is 63 on the Royals Farm Report top 100 prospect list.
Peterson had an underwhelming collegiate career that began with a rough start, hitting a mere .097 his freshman year although he did show some an ability to get on base with a .349 OBP. Even in his last season as a junior for the UCLA, not a lot stands out. Peterson managed his only collegiate home runs his junior campaign and if anything statistically seemed nothing more than a speed/high OBP outfielder. To put his collegiate career in perspective, Peterson hit a home run every 131.33 atbats in college. Not exactly a power hitter. You can see his college stats here:
Nonetheless, the Royals drafted the 6’1″ Kort Peterson in the 23rd round of the 2016 draft, signing for a $100,000 bonus. Peterson initially reported to Burlington in 2016. Since then, he has been a fast riser in the Royals advancing to AA Natural in 2018. So why was Peterson drafted?
ALL ABOUT THE TOOLS
Peterson was drafted because he has the body and tools of a prototypical corner outfielder, with enough speed to play centerfield when needed. Basically a typical Royals player. GM Dayton Moore and the Royals are known for their approach of drafting, signing and otherwise acquiring players with tools over production and with high defensive aptitude. Kort Peterson is another example. I’m speculating, but the tools Peterson likely displayed in college were speed, above average defensive proficiency, and the ability to get on base. The hope at the time was likely that Peterson’s hit tool would develop enough that the power would come. The old adage, the last thing to develop for hitters is power.
Among Peterson’s many tools is his in-game speed that is backed up statistically by Fangraphs. Fangraphs rates Peterson’s Spd at 7.7 which is second on the Naturals to Nick Heath who some rate at 80 grade speed.
In addition to his speed, Peterson also has a strong arm (at least a 55 grade) showing velocity and carry from the outfield.
THE HIT TOOL
From my eyewitness encounters, Peterson makes consistent hard contact stemming from his ability to manipulate the barrel which is similar to Eric Longenhagen’s 2016 report for Fanpgraphs
Peterson has solid feel for the barrel and makes quality contact but lacks prototypical corner power. He has a chance to hit his way onto a roster as a bench bat
Peterson has an efficient swing load and solid balance despite an exaggerated leg kick. He also has shown a swing path that avoids ground balls with his current GB% being only 42.3% with the Naturals.
The interesting development since being drafted is Peterson’s improving power. Here he is hitting a homer off a lefty for the Naturals.
And here is Peterson hitting a three run bomb.
Peterson’s isolated power has improved dramatically since college with an impressive .274 ISO in AA, albeit the small sample size caveat applies.
Ability to Make Contact
If there is an Achilles’ heel in Peterson’s game, it is his swing and miss profile. Peterson has struggled at times making contact which is evidenced by his 29.9% strikeout percentage and his 16.1 SwStr%. However, Aldalberto Mondesi had a 16.5% SwStr% and Ryan O’Hearn 15.4% SwStr% for the Naturals in 2016 and both made it to the bigs, so there is hope.
TIME IS NOW
For Peterson, the time is now to make a move. At 24 years old at AA, and with Khalil Lee and Nick Heath also at AA, and Blake Perkins, Seuly Matias and others forcing the issue at lower levels, Peterson must capitalize now on his opportunity and force his way to the big leagues.
Image Credit – Drew Osborne