Dillon Peters won’t say how much he demanded from Major League Baseball to bypass college, other than that the amount was substantial.
“We made it clear that they had better show a lot of money,” the Longhorns’ left-handed pitcher said. “I really wanted to come here.”
Fortunately for the Longhorns, Peters failed to meet some specifications, or as coach Augie Garrido said, “He didn’t have the computer profile of a major league pitcher.”
Peters, short for the position at a listed height of 5 feet, 11 — is doing just fine, though, in his sophomore season for the Longhorns. He is 4-2 with a 1.80 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in his last three starts, allowing just one run in 24 2/3 innings. His ERA in five Big 12 starts is 0.98.
“He’s not a really big guy, but he is a battler,” Garrido said.
Peters was a two-time all-state pitcher at Cathedral High in Indianapolis. He was selected in the 20th round by the Cleveland Indians, a draft status that did not reflect his talent.
“I was told that it was going to take first-round money to sign him,” recalled Jim Callis, executive editor of Baseball America, the sport’s leading trade publication. “I think if he had been willing to sign for where he was picked, he might have gone in the third or fourth round.”
Callis said that some major league scouts thought that Peters was closer to 5-9 than 5-11. They also questioned his athleticism.
“There are exceptions, like Roy Oswalt,” Callis said. “But generally for a starting pitcher, size equals durability. If you are a smaller guy and less athletic, when you are throwing with more effort it takes more out of you. It’s a durability issue in terms of maintaining your stuff within the game and your stuff holding up over the course of a season. If you are a classic 6-3, 220 with an athletic delivery, you are more likely to not just throw in the 90s in the first inning but in the seventh.”
Peters had a little more velocity in high school – 90 to 94 miles per hour — than he does now. Longhorn pitching coach Skip Johnson said that Peters usually throws in the 87 to 93 range.
“He could still throw a fastball 94,” Johnson said. “But we’re talking about pitching, and that is a lot different than just throwing.”
Peters said there are more adverse consequences to throwing with abandon in college.
“I didn’t throw as many strikes in high school,” Peters said. “I just threw hard and got people to swing at bad pitches. Here, guys are going to let that go and get walks. I had to learn how to pitch in the zone.”
Indeed, as a freshman Peters appeared in 23 games, starting 11, and his longest stint was four innings. He struck out 43 and walked 18 in 39.2 innings. That’s one walk every 2.18 inning.
This season his strikeouts and walks are down. He has 38 strikeouts and 17 walks in 65 innings. He has walked one batter every 3.8 innings.
“Strikeouts is not always the key,” Garrido said. “He’s pounding the zone, and (hitters) are putting the ball in play.”
Peters said he has improved his command, particularly with the curveball and changeup this season.
“I feel more comfortable throwing three pitches,” Peters said. “If you can command two pitches at this level you are pretty successful.”
Peters can get drafted again a year from now. Garrido expects that Peters will again have to overcome not looking like a prototype pitcher.
“He’s going to have to be one of those guys who proves it at every level before he pitches in the major leagues,” Garrido said. “A lot of them have done that, especially left-handed pitchers.”
NOTE: Dillon Newman, Baylor’s usual Friday night starting pitcher, will miss the series with a sore (right) pitching arm. Newman also missed his start against TCU last week.
Texas (22-17, 5-10 Big 12) at Baylor (21-20, 8-6)
6:30 p.m. Friday, 8:05 p.m. Saturday, 2:05 p.m. Sunday
TV: ESPNU Saturday
Friday – UT RHP Parker French (3-3, 2.57 ERA) vs. RHP Max Garner (2-4, 3.45)
Saturday – UT LHP Dillon Peters (4-2, 1.80) vs. RHP Austin Stone (2-2, 3.28)
Sunday – UT RHP Nathan Thornhill (2-4, 2.51) vs. RHP Ryan Smith (1-2, 4.05)