Peters' journey home passes through Arizona

Dodgers prospect, Los Angeles native building on MVP campaign

DJ Peters, the California League MVP in 2017, is a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs' taxi squad. (Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos)

By Michael Avallone / | October 19, 2017 10:30 AM

Statistically speaking, there wasn't much more DJ Peters could have done to warrant his selection as California League MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2017. In his first full season, the No. 17 Dodgers prospect slugged 27 homers and drove in 82 runs for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, but it was a two at-bat sequence July 5 against San Jose that cemented his status as a player to watch.

Facing a rehabbing Madison Bumgarner, the 21-year-old went deep not once, but twice against the 2014 World Series MVP. If that wasn't impressive enough, both of Peters' blasts came on successive at-bats during a nine-run fourth inning. The feat earned him a 2017 MiLBY nomination and pushed the outfielder deeper into the consciousness of the prospect-laden Dodgers and their followers.

"To be honest, I was just happy we were on our way to a win and that I contributed to it," said Peters, who homered three times against Lancaster earlier that week. "Whether it was a walk, a hit, a home run or whatever, it was a confidence booster for our team. It may have been early July, but I point to that game [against San Jose] as what drove us to the playoffs in the second half."

Modest as he may be about his showdown with Bumgarner, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound slugger helped spur the Quakes in the second half. He paced the circuit with 61 extra-base hits while finishing third in homers and tied for fifth in RBIs. Peters' award-winning season came after he hit .351 with 13 roundtrippers in 66 games for Rookie-level Ogden during his professional debut in 2016.

Video: Quakes' Peters hits second homer off Bumgarner

"I have a much better understanding of the process needed to succeed," the Western Nevada College product said. "[Last offseason] I worked with guys like Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig. I learned so much, and even though I didn't make too many changes going into this past year, I mixed up some things here and there. I had never played in anything close to 140 games in one season before, so I knew there would be some obstacles. But everything turned out the way I wanted it to."

Peters' strong year continued with an impressive postseason for Rancho Cucamonga and ended with a promotion to Double-A Tulsa. Even with just eight plate appearances in two Texas League playoff games, he could see the vast difference between the two levels.

"It's definitely a different game in Double-A," Peters said. "The pitchers are around the zone more and can throw two or three pitches for strikes, instead of one. Basically, everyone is good and deserving of being there. Nothing is handed to anyone at that level. If you deserve to be there, you'll be there."

A winner of three Cal League Player of the Week awards, Peters has high hopes for his Arizona Fall League experience. He has one hit and one walk in two games with Glendale, where he is only eligible to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays as a "taxi squad" member.

"It's an opportunity for me to get some more at-bats and have some fun," he said. "Being able to meet guys from different organizations and get to know some of those who play over on the East Coast is a good thing. It gives me a chance to see how their organization works compared to the Dodgers. But we're one team here -- the Glendale Desert Dogs. We wear our organizations across our chests, but we're all having fun and trying to get better as a team.

"Personally, it's about getting to know my strengths and weaknesses more. That's how baseball works. You're going to have one good week and then one bad week. It's a roller coaster and you want to make sure you don't peak too high or get too low when the slumps come. So that's what I'm trying to do. Work on things I need to, have fun and build friendships that will last for a lifetime."

Growing up in the shadows of Dodger Stadium, Peters was drafted in the 36th round in 2014 and 2015 by the Cubs and Rangers, respectively, but did not sign. It was a different story in 2016, when his hometown team called his name in the fourth round.

"I've been a Dodgers fan since I was six years old," the Glendora, California native said. "It was a blessing and a dream come true to be selected and ultimately play for Los Angeles. I don't know any person who wouldn't want to play for this franchise. For me, it was a no-brainer to sign. I wanted to start my professional career and I was able to do so with the best organization in all of sports."

Offseason MiLB include

While not looking past his AFL opportunity, Peters is already set for another offseason regimen similar to the one he took part in last year. It involves staying in Southern California and working out with other Minor Leaguers and current Dodgers at the ballpark he hopes to one day call home.

"It will be virtually the same as last year," he said. "I'm going to head over to Dodger Stadium and work out with Adrian Gonzalez, Rob Segedin, Chris Taylor and Turner. I learned so much from them last year. Even today, I can still text Turner and he'll be there for me. Having guys to work out with and learn from in the offseason is a real blessing and shows what type of people they are and what the Dodgers are all about. I'm super-excited to get some work done and prepare myself for 2018."

Expected to start next season in Tulsa, Peters knows he's creeping closer and closer to realizing his boyhood dream. Although he won't let his hopes get in the way of his work, he does occasionally think of what lies ahead.

"I played in the Freeway Series [against the Angels] at the end of Spring Training," Peters said. "I got to play in the outfield at Dodger Stadium, which was so surreal. The place was packed, loud and just a lot of fun to be at. 

"I used to be one of those kids sitting in the stands watching and hoping, and now I'm out there playing. I used to dream about playing in the outfield at Dodger Stadium ... and now I have. I hope to make it a permanent situation sooner than later."

Michael Avallone is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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