Peter O’Brien provides an awfully good first impression. And we’re not just talking about the tape-measure shots he’s been known to hit,
He’s intelligent, an upbeat conversationalist, bi-lingual – his mom, Mercedes, is a Cuban refugee who met his dad, Terry, in Miami. He hit 23 homers in 72 games and 294 at-bats for the Double-A Trenton Thunder in 2014 before being traded to Arizona for infielder Martin Prado.
O’Brien was a good guy in the Yankees system. Now that Arizona has DFAed him, signing backup catcher Juan Graterol, also a former Trenton Thunder player (2015) the Yankees ought to re-sign him.
In the Arizona organization, he had an excellent 2015 at Triple-A Reno, hitting .284 (139-for-490) with 35 doubles, 26 homers and 107 RBIs., He also struck out 124 times and got a taste of the majors, going 4-for-12 with a honer in eight games. The 2016 season played out in similar fashion, with a .254 (103-for-406) mark with 24 homers, 20 doubles, 75 RBIs and 147 strikeouts at Reno. He played 28 games with the Diamondbacks, hitting just .141 (9-for-64) with five homers, nine RBIs, a double and 27 strikeouts.
A National League East scout I know and trust felt O’Brien was pressing in 2016. Really he has no position with an NL team, as his catching reactions are not the fastest and he really does not have the speed to be a corner outfielder, which is what Arizona was hoping to make him.
He does have a powerful bat, and the kind of power bat that would fit well in Yankee Stadium. Matt Holliday will certainly fill that spot well for the Yankees in 2017. Why not re-sign O’Brien to a minor-league pact, send him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and let hitting coach P.J. Pilittere, who knows him, work with him on patience at the plate and taking off-speed stuff to the opposite field?
O’Brien is only 26 (he will turn 27 next July). The last time I saw him live, the Yankees were working with him on doing just what was mentioned above and he was making excellent progress. His strikeouts were coming down and, in 2015, managed to hit over .280 at Triple-A and seemed comfortable at the plate.
In 2016, he didn’t. Was it pressing? Was it the stress of learning new positions, as required in the National League? Maybe a bit of both? Who knows?
But if the Yankees can pick up with the approach they were working with him at Trenton in 2014, a lot if what went on in 2016, for whatever reason, could be corrected. Nor would O’Brien have to worry about playing a position, only refining his hitting for a ballpark his right-handed swing is perfect for.
Certainly he strikes out a bit. Power hitters strike out. Aaron Judge strikes out, Dave Kingman struck out, Mickey Mantle struck out. That’s is part of what these guys are. O’Brien is no different, but he could easily be molded into a long-term Yankees DH at a modest price.
O”Brien is extremely coachable. He would enjoy a role that just includes hitting. The Yankees organization knows him and he knows them. It seems like a perfect match.
The Yankees ought to re-sign him if the opportunity is there.