DJ Peters Finds Relaxation Is Key
GLENDALE, Ariz.—DJ Peters has spent the past two offseasons tweaking his swing to limit his strikeouts.
After only moderate success, he has a new focus this year.
"Just relax,” said Peters, the Dodgers No. 14 prospect. "You get too tense, too juiced up, you’re not going to have success, and that’s what I’ve been doing. So that’s been the big thing, just staying calm and relaxed up there. Live BPs, the few at-bats I’ve had, I already feel the difference.”
The 24-year old outfielder has been one of the Dodgers’ biggest power threats in the minors the last few years. A hulking 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, Peters has hit at least 20 home runs and slugged over .450 each of the last three seasons while climbing to Triple-A.
However, he’s also had either the most or second-most strikeouts in the Dodgers organization all three years and owns a career 31 percent strikeout rate.
After being placed on the 40-man roster in the offseason, Peters acknowledged bringing that number down is the key for him to reach the majors and stay there.
"I know I can put the ball in the seats,” he said. "It’s me just finding it (my effort level) a little bit and playing with it.”
Peters’ bloop RBI double turned out to be the difference in the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Cubs on Sunday afternoon at Camelback Ranch. As encouraging was his first at-bat, when he fell behind 0-2 but managed to put the ball in play—a different outcome than what was likely in years past.
Peters is likely to start the season back at Triple-A Oklahoma City. If everything goes according to plan, he’ll return a calmer, more relaxed player than the one who finished there last year.
"It’s been feeling really good,” he said. "Now it’s just consistency and staying balanced and playing relaxed.”
Righthander Oscar De La Cruz was the Cubs No. 6 prospect two years ago. Now, he’s not even one of their Top 30 prospects.
Rankings aside, the 24-year-old showed there is still reason for hope in his spring training debut. De La Cruz struck out two batters during a scoreless eighth inning, showing a lively 93-94 mph fastball and an effective 87-88 mph changeup to keep hitters off balance.
De La Cruz pitched to a 5.24 ERA in 16 starts at Double-A Tennessee in 2018 before being suspended 80 games after testing positive for a masking agent. The Cubs moved him to the bullpen at Tennessee last year and he progressively began pitching later in games, ultimately recording his first two saves in August.
Mookie Betts made his Dodgers debut on Sunday and went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly out of the leadoff spot. He flew out to left in his first at-bat, lined out to right in his second at-bat and finished his day with a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the fifth that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.