Many have been asking what is in store for Pete O’Brien, the Yankees farmhand who, in 60 games between Class-A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton, has 23 homers entering Sunday play.
In 60 games with the two Yankees farm clubs, O’Brien is hitting .279 (68-for-244) with 50 RBIs in 64 games. The bat is real. The Yankees just have to find the right position for him.
“I don’t care where I play, I just want to get in there every day and get better at what I am doing,” the 23-year-old native of Miami Gardens, Fla., said. “If they want me to catch, I’ll catch. It doesn’t matter.
“I’m willing to work hard at whatever is needed to eventually play in the major leagues.”
O’Brien has caught, played the outfield, third base and, lately, has been stationed at first base. His catching skills are improving, along with his reactions. His play at first base certainly can be rated adequate.
He can pull the ball from the right side, which makes some Yankees people drool when they envision what he can do with Yankee Stadium’s porch, but he is also showing outstanding power to both center and right, drawing comparisons to home runs in Trenton such past sluggers as Charles Johnson and Morgan Burkhardt hit in clearing high fences.
“What Pete has is special,” said Trenton manager Tony Franklin, who for a time this season also had slugger Kyle Roller, now at Triple-A Scranton. “You don;t see such natural power all the time. I think he has a bright future.”
O’Brien was a at DH for Trenton Sunday at New Britain. If anything, he might be able to help the Yankees there perhaps late in 2015. Speed is not an asset, but his plate management is improving. Yes, he’ll strike out – 60 in 259 plate appearances entering Sunday play, but what power hitter doesn’t.
What the Yankees also like is this is a focused guy who is listens to advice and knows he has challenges as he negotiates the upper levels of the Yankees system.
“I’ve been pleased since I came to Trenton,” he said. “The pitchers in the Eastern League aren’t giving me anything I didn’t expect. They will adjust and I will adjust. That is how the game is played.”
Some of the blasts he’s hit in Trenton, a pitcher’s park, have impressed those who have seen him. Plate management could be better. He is starting to take what they are giving him, hitting .242 (32-for-140) with 13 homers and 31 RBIs in 34 games with the Thunder.
He mixes well in the clubhouse. Given his mom is Cuban, he grew up in a bilingual household and is fluent in Spanish, his work with pitchers has been solid.
In O’Brien, the Yankees have a future power bat who can both DH and be something of a super-utility guy, filling in behind the plate or at first base. Third base and the outfield would be secondary positions.
Someone asked what position would the Yankees concentrate on for O’Brien. With a “special bat,” as Franklin mentioned, does it matter?