The ideas were laid out for left-handed pitcher Dillon Peters before he ever set foot at Tempe Diablo Stadium for his first spring training camp in an Angels uniform.
His fastball could stand to improve, his new pitching coach told him during the offseason. Prepare to spend at least the early parts of the spring working on it.
Peters, 26, who was drafted in the 10th round in 2014, had recently been designated for assignment by the Miami Marlins and traded to an organization based on an opposite coast. He had underperformed during his first season accruing regular major league service time. He craved feedback.
In the nearly two weeks he has spent under the direct supervision of Doug White in Arizona, Peters has acted on what the Angels’ pitching coach had in mind. Edgertronic video and Rapsodo radar technology, which was introduced in Angels camp for the first time this spring, has helped Peters learn to throw his four-seam fastball with an increased spin rate.
“It’s almost instant gratification,” Peters said Thursday. “The ball is getting thrown. It’s not the difference between a ball and a strike. It’s the actual physical movement of the baseball. I can see it.”
Peters is contending for the fifth spot in the Angels’ starting rotation — a competition that is fronted by Jaime Barria, with Felix Pena close behind. The pair logged a combined 222 innings for the Angels last year. Peters has only 59 innings of major league experience. The fastball development could help Peters stick as the Angels whittle down a crowd of options to assemble a major league pitching staff.
Peters will see what his new-look fastball can do against live competition Saturday, when he starts the Angels’ Cactus League opener against the San Francisco Giants at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
“He’s been good and he’s been working on some stuff,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “But I wouldn’t read too much into who is starting.”
At any rate, Peters welcomes the opportunity. He spent last year scrabbling to find a foothold with the Marlins despite being ranked by Baseball America as their 11th-best prospect after the 2017 season. Command issues cost him roster permanence in 2018. He spent the campaign shuttling between triple A and the big league club.
After earning his first opening day roster spot, Peters, an undersized pitcher who was listed at 5 feet 9 last year, had a combined 5.94 earned-run average over 26 games that included 24 starts. He did not return to the major leagues as a September call-up and was dumped off the Marlins’ 40-man roster in late November.
Yet Peters was still on the Angels’ radar. The amount of line drives he induced jumped to nearly 23% in triple A in 2018 from about 14% in the minor leagues in 2017, according to Fangraphs, but Peters’ scouting reports presented some upside. His fastball topped out at 94 mph, and he threw a curveball that last year had an elite spin rate of 2,860 revolutions per minute, according to MLB’s Statcast system. All he needed was an edge.
If he can achieve favorable results by improving the efficiency of his fastball spin, which ranks in the 70th percentile of major league pitchers, Peters could see his career track in a new direction.