Peterson hits stride en route to Big Apple

Mets lefty learns from season, finds right sequence in desert

David Peterson went 3-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 24 Eastern League starts for Binghamton in 2019. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | October 16, 2019 10:15 AM

David Peterson entered the 2019 season with two goals: He wanted to start the year at Double-A and he wanted to end it at Triple-A.

As the campaign progressed, the latter aspiration shifted and he set his sights on The Show and the Mets' Wild Card chase.

"I want to get to the Major Leagues as fast as I can, and if they would have called and they needed me to help out, I would have been ready for the challenge," Peterson said. "It was definitely something that was in my mind."

That call never came. Although he garnered an assignment to Scottsdale for the Arizona Fall League, when Sept. 1 passed and Labor Day came and went, the southpaw found himself exactly where he started -- Binghamton.

"[It] didn't happen, but I think it was a productive year for me in Double-A," he said. "I think it was a year that had some ups and downs as well as a good amount of lessons to be learned and just an overall good year for my development going into next year."

After New York selected Peterson with the 20th overall pick in 2017, the University of Oregon product quickly proved his worth. Following 3 2/3 frames over three starts for Class A Short Season Brooklyn in his pro debut that summer, Peterson went 7-10 with a 2.16 ERA in 22 starts as he climbed from Class A Columbia to Class A Advanced St. Lucie in 2018. The 6-foot-6 lefty ranked third in the Minors with a 64.5 ground-ball percentage while placing eighth in the Mets farm system with 115 strikeouts while only walking 30 in 128 innings.

Opening this year in his first big league camp, Peterson allowed three runs in his first Grapefruit League inning, then spun a scoreless frame two days later. The Mets' No. 7 prospect wound up with a similar trend in the Eastern League when he was saddled with a 6.88 ERA in five April starts (17 IP), compared to a 2.13 mark in five May starts (25 1/3 IP).

"I was trying to work on some stuff and I think I just got away from really pitching to my strengths, and so I think that hurt my numbers a little bit at the beginning of the year," said Peterson, who also made two trips to the injured list with "minor stuff." "But the second half, from May on, was a lot better for me."

The 24-year-old said he's always had the ability to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters, but this season he began focusing on specific batters' tendencies and game planning against them. Throughout the season, and now in the AFL, Peterson has been figuring out when to use his top pitches -- fastball and slider -- vs. when to use the changeup and curveball.

Offseason MiLB include

And he seems to be navigating it well. He didn't allow an earned run through his first 10 1/3 innings with the Scorpions, striking out 10 and walking five in three starts, before a tough outing in which he was tagged for five earned runs in 2 2/3 frames Monday against Salt River.

"I think I've been able to command the zone and get ahead of guys, but also, I felt like all four pitches have been good for me so far in the Fall League in the spots that I need to throw them all," Peterson said. "If I'm going to have a higher percentage of sliders and fastballs, what can I do to best complement those two pitches with my changeup and my curveball? So that's the other thing [I'm figuring out].

"And [I'm] focusing more on getting my slider usage up as an out pitch, as well as a pitch for a strike."

As the Fall League winds down and the first sparks of the hot stove approach, Mets fans might start thinking about the 2020 rotation. With Noah Syndergaard repeatedly mentioned in trade rumors and Zack Wheeler entering free agency, there might be at least one vacancy.

When Spring Training rolls along, Peterson again will set his intentions for the season, thinking about where he wants to be six months from March 2020. He's watched teammates like Chris Mazza go to Flushing. He saw his longtime roommate, Anthony Kay, get traded to the Blue Jays and then make it to Toronto.

Could Peterson be next to join the New York youth movement headlined by Pete Alonso as the team tries to capitalize on its strong second half?

Perhaps. But for now, the Colorado native has more immediate goals. But then again, next season is just six months away.

"I'm really focused on finishing up the Fall League as best as I can, and then taking that momentum that I put in here and put it in my offseason work," he said. "And then come into Spring Training as ready as I can to try and help the team out, however they see fit."

Kelsie Heneghan is a reporter at MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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