Because the Yankees did not sign Sam Stafford last year, they held two second-round picks in this year’s draft. With their second pick (89th overall), the Yankees selected University of Miami senior Peter O’Brien.
O’Brien has quite a few quirks in his biography and scouting report. At 6’5″ 225 lbs, he’s very big for a catcher. While MLB catchers can be very successful at that size – see Matt Wieters – he certainly scrapes the upper bound. He is by no means a gold glove candidate behind the plate, but all signs indicate that he is good enough defensively to stick behind the plate. His biggest strength on defense is a very strong arm, and his glove has improved over time.
And man, he hits. Playing for a big program on a light-hitting team, O’Brien hit .338 with a .633 slugging percentage in his senior year. I can’t find his on base percentage anywhere, but for what its worth he did take his share of walks in his first three years of college ball.
The story gets interesting here. His first three years of college ball took place at Bethune-Cookman University, a lower-quality Division I school. He hit well enough (.386/.445/.748 his sophomore year) to get himself drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft, but opted instead to return to school. He requested and was granted a transfer to the University of Miami for personal (family) reasons, and was allowed to end his college career playing for a top-shelf team.
There is some bad news. O’Brien missed the last 17 games of the season (and possibly the reminder of the NCAA tournament) with a broken wrist. The good news is that O’Brien will be able to play as soon as the pain dies down, so the injury can’t be too serious.
Now, if you add up all the component parts of O’Brien’s scouting report, you start to wonder why he was available at 89th overall. He had a monster senior year – after the NCAA continued to tone their aluminum bats down, reducing offense – after switching to a much harder conference. He plays good enough defense at catcher. He has no reported makeup concerns, and appears to be a pretty popular player in Miami. How the hell did the Yankees pick him?
I think its part luck, part injury, and part bias against picking college seniors. All of these factors should also reduce O’Brien’s signing bonus. Only fellow second round pick Austin Aune, who may already be on his way to Tampa at this point, we shouldn’t expect him to sign right away. He’ll probably ride out the NCAA playoffs with Miami.
I like the pick, a lot. Everything that I read points to a fast-moving player with significant upside. He has his downsides – size – but plenty of upside as well. He’s a relatively safe bet compared to a similarly-skilled high school player. I don’t know what the schedule would be for his development, but I can’t believe he’s going to languish in the low minor leagues for a season and a half.
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