His name is Brock Peterson. The first baseman has been quietly making a name for himself at Spring Training for the Washington Nationals — so much so that current first baseman Adam LaRoche should be feeling some heat.
The 30-year-old Peterson was originally drafted in the 49th round of the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft by the Minnesota Twins. In 2012, Peterson was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and made his MLB debut in 2013. Following the season, he became a free agent and was signed to a minor-league deal by the Nationals.
In 23 games with the Cardinals last year, Peterson put together just two hits for two RBI and a pair of walks. He spent an even amount of time in left field and at first base, but has primarily played first base this spring. In his sixth career Spring Training trip, he’s making the most of it.
At the plate, Peterson has been solid. He is 7-for-18 with one double, one HR and six RBI. He’s also drawn three walks while striking out five times and has an on-base percentage of .476. His counterpart at first base, Adam LaRoche, isn’t faring as well. LaRoche is 8-for-23 with two HRs and four RBI. His slash line of .348/.375/.609 is lower than Peterson’s .389/.476/.611.
In 2014, LaRoche will be in his contract year. He is on the tail end of his second consecutive two-year deal with the Nationals and he needs to prove himself all over again. After a Silver Slugger-caliber 2012 campaign, LaRoche fell well short of expectations in 2013. He hit just 19 doubles, 20 HRs and 62 RBI. His average dropped from .271 to .237.
With the recent potential found in Peterson, LaRoche is no longer locked in for the long haul at first base. While he struggled last year, you have to believe the Nationals will look to resign him at season’s end due to past performance. However, now that Peterson has emerged as a legitimate potential replacement, that may make GM Mike Rizzo think twice about LaRoche’s contract.
Financially, it would be cheaper to go with Peterson if he proves to be a suitable heir to the throne at first base. He won’t be arbitration eligible until 2017 and won’t become a free agent until 2020. Obviously, there’s nothing that says he’ll be around that long, but it’s still an interesting little tidbit.
Adam LaRoche is playing for his contract this season and with the recent rise of Brock Peterson, he should be feeling the pressure of the moment. He’s had a lock on that position for the past several seasons, but there’s a minor leaguer that has made a name for himself in Spring Training that could put him out of a job at season’s end.