Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 215 lb.
High School: Braddock HS (Miami, FL)
College: Bethune-Cookman College, University of Miami
Background: O’Brien was originally drafted by the Rockies in the 3rd round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft, but he decided not to sign. Instead, he waited a year and played ball at the University of Miami where he hit 10 home runs in his senior season. Before he transferred to Miami, O’Brien hit 38 home runs at Bethune-Cookman College. His home run totals caught the eye of the Yankees and they selected him in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB June Amateur draft.
O’Brien has played well in his two years in the Yankees minor league system. The highest level he has reached is high A ball, but he should move a little faster than most prospects due to the fact that he played college ball and is already 23 years old. In his first year as a Yankee prospect, O’Brien hit 10 home runs. All 10 of those home runs were hit while he played in the New York-Penn League. In 2013, O’Brien divided his 22 home runs evenly between Charleston (A) and Tampa (A+).
Here’s the table of O’Brien’s stats from Baseball Reference.
|2012||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A–Rk||NYY||52||227||212||29||45||10||0||10||34||0||1||10||62||.212||.256||.401||.656||85||10||3||0||2||1|
|2013||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-A||NYY||119||506||447||78||130||39||4||22||96||0||1||41||134||.291||.350||.544||.893||243||13||6||0||12||2|
Positioning: O’Brien originally was supposed to play catcher, but the Yankees do not have the room for him to play catcher at any high levels with Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy already in their system. Because of this, O’Brien has been moved to third base. The only other strong third base prospect the Yankees have is their first round selection from 2013, Eric Jaigelo. O’Brien should remain a few levels above Jaigelo and with prospects it’s always good to have an abundance of potential talent at the same position because prospects are difficult to project to the bigs. We all know how Jesus Montero and Austin Romine look right now.
With Alex Rodriguez on the verge of possibly missing some or perhaps the entire season to suspension, some believe the Yankees should try O’Brien out in Spring Training for the third base job. I think he’s still raw and believe he would be better off playing another year or two in the minors before making the jump to the majors. He had a strong arm as a catcher, but he just wasn’t all that amazing at pop time and the defensive part of the game behind the dish so playing third base seems like it would make sense for him. The worst case scenario for O’Brien defensively is either right field or first base.
Mechanics: I’ve been looking at some videos of O’Brien’s swing and this video from Baseball America has given me the best look at what his current swing looks like. I’ve watched this video countless of times and focused on each part of his swing: legs, hips, hands, follow through, etc.
O’Brien has a solid foundation in his batting stance. He has good rhythm before the pitch is thrown helping him out with his timing.
In still two, you can see how O’Brien locks and loads back. He has a good trigger here and his hands wait back on the ball until it cross into the zone.
In still three, take a look at O’Brien’s balance. His feet are planted and are in almost perfect position for hitting, his back foot pivots for full rotation and his hips rotate well enough to generate power and get around on the ball. I’ve read some past reports about his swing after he was drafted and scouts had said that he had a long swing, but I can see where he’s made improvements. His hands are tucked in more when he’s about to swing which should help his swing become short and compact, not long. A long swing has a lot of holes, but I like what I see from O’Brien here. O’Brien transfers his weight well and has plus bat speed. The ball just explodes off his bat and if you watch the video of him taking BP you’ll hear how loud the ball sounds.
Still four is where he shows his ability to extend his arms after he makes contact with the ball. This will help O’Brien drive the ball and is one of many reasons as to why he has so much power.
Still five deals with his beautiful finish. Right here you can see some loft in his swing – loft is not an uppercut and is a sign of raw power. O’Brien shows both BP and in-game power and I look forward to seeing how he plays in 2014.
Scouting Scale: The power part of the scouting scale projects a players home run total they may one day achieve. O’Brien should be a 60 (20-26) or 70 (26-35) on the power scale.