Leading up to Day 1 of the MLB Draft on June 12, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be first-rounders. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next up is left-hander David Peterson from the University of Oregon. Peterson, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 215 lbs., was stellar for the Ducks this season, posting an 11-4 record and 2.51 ERA while striking out 140 batters and walking only 15 in 100 innings. Peterson, a native of Aurora, Colorado, was coached by ex-Rockies manager Walt Weiss at Regis Jesuit High School
Peterson is likely to be selected in the teens, with Baseball America (17th-Mariners), MLB.com (17th-Mariners or 19th-Giants), and ESPN (16th-Yankees) all having him off the board before pick no. 20. Be sure to check out Peterson’s full scouting report over at SB Nation’s Minor League Ball.
When did you first get into baseball as a kid and realize your passion for the game?
“I got into it really young, like 2 or 3 years old. Since then, it’s all I’ve had a strong passion for and always been something I’ve wanted to do. As I got older, it turned into something I really wanted to pursue as a career.”
Growing up, did you have a favorite team? Favorite player?
“I started out liking the Yankees, just because of Derek Jeter. My two favorite teams are the Rockies and the Red Sox, as I have a connection to both of those teams. Growing up, I wanted to be Jeter and that’s who I watched the most. Watching his career go from him making himself known to the legacy he left.”
Your high school coach at Regis Jesuit in Colorado was Walt Weiss, who left the program to become the manager of the Colorado Rockies. How has that helped you at all in preparing to go pro?
“It’s huge. Coach Weiss, obviously, had the experience of being in the big leagues for a few teams and having a good career. He always taught us how to play your game the right way and how to go about your business the right way. For me, he was a huge mentor and someone I could always look up to and enjoy playing for every day. He definitely brought his experiences and wasn’t afraid to share them with us to make us the next players we could be.”
You were a junior in high school when Walt Weiss left to take over the Rockies. What’s it like having your high school coach suddenly become a major-league manager?
“It was crazy. It kind of came out of nowhere for most of us, and we were obviously really happy for him. He deserved the opportunity. It was a little bit of a shock at first and something to get used to just finding a new coach. Our high school team and everyone around the program was really excited for him and his family. There was a lot of support that went their way.”
Did you have a turning point in your career when you realized you may be a first-round pick?
“I think in high school, when I made varsity as a freshman and that gave me some confidence. Then we won states. I had some success early on, and it was about building on some success moving on throughout my four years in high school. When I got to my senior year, I obviously had some home visits with teams. There was some attention with the draft coming up. I started to get a feeling that it could be a possibility to go pro. It was probably my junior or senior year in high school when I got more attention from pro scouts and figured it as a possibility.”
You were picked by the Red Sox in the 28th round three years ago but decided to go to Oregon. What went into that decision for you?
“The decision was pretty simple. I thought that what was being offered... it was obviously a huge honor for me to be drafted by the Red Sox and I was very grateful for that, but the situation they were in with what they had to offer wasn’t enough to take me away from my college education. Obviously, there were opportunities I was looking forward to at Oregon. It was a decision to put the professional side away for now and go get a head start on my degree and work on that and also play for the university, which was a fresh program still. Growing up, I always wanted to go to Fullerton. It was my dream school. I ended up still getting to play Coach Horton [at Oregon]. For me, it was as simple as my education being really important to me and the offer at hand wasn’t good enough to take me away from the opportunities here.”
You’ve taken off this year as a helium guy. What has made you so dominant in the Pac-12 this season?
“It was a combination of things. [Assistant Coach Jason] Dietrich being hired for the last eight months has been huge. He’s an awesome coach and has a lot of knowledge within the game. My successes and failures from my first two years at Oregon kind of came together. I think my first two years were a lot of learning experiences for me, whether with success or failure. I’ve put everything together finally, and there’s a consistency to my work now. I’ve had that consistency at some points in the past, but now I’ve gotten to the point where every day is the exact same. That’s led to a lot of success.”
You struck out 20 batters earlier this season against Arizona State. Take me through that experience.
“I didn’t know how many I had until after the game, when I got interviewed. I felt like I was striking guys out and figured it had to be up there. I didn’t know where it was though. That day I got to the park and had a little bit of extra motivation because the week before, I hadn’t done so well and was sick all week. I felt like myself again when I got to the ballpark that day. Just going through my routine that day before the game, during BP and treatment before the game, everything felt really good that day. Something felt a little different.”
A lot of guys in this draft come in throwing 100 mph, but you have less velocity and a ton of control, with an 140:15 strikeout to walk ratio this season. How have you focused on control?
“It’s been one of the things in the past I’ve been criticized about, whether by coaches or scouts or whoever it is. I haven’t had the best command or control, so that was a weakness that I really put a lot of attention and focus on. I wanted to limit the number of free bases I gave up, whether it was walking or hitting people. I’ve seen success when I don’t give up anything for free and make guys earn it. For me, this year I was ready to accept that challenge. Like I said, the consistency and a slight change in my delivery. I think it was just the limiting of free bases.”
What’s your biggest strength as a pitcher?
“My competitiveness. When I’m out there, it’s me versus you and my job is to get you out so that’s what I’m going to do. Every time I get the ball, I’m going out there and giving my team 100 percent of what I’ve got. That’s the biggest thing, whether my stuff is good or bad I go out there with the same mindset that I’ll get every guy out that I face.”
At the next level, what do you hope to work on the most?
“Adjusting to the next level is gonna be pretty big. Just taking another step in your career. Continuing to build off the success I had this year will be big. Sticking with a solid routine, getting the consistency in my work and sticking to the process I developed this year. Also really just working to refine everything as a ballplayer.”
You’re one of the tallest guys in this draft class at 6-foot-6. What are the advantages of that?
“I think it’s huge. I think the bigger you are, the more of a presence you are on the mound physically. It helps with some of my deception. For me, my height is a blessing. Simple as that.”
If you had a major-leaguer to compare your game to, who would it be?
“I’ve heard David Price a couple times. But any of those guys: Price, Sale, Kershaw, Bumgarner. Those guys are some of the best at what they do and that’s what I want to be. To be compared to any of those guys is an honor.”