Ever since being drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 2012 Amateur Draft, Peter O’Brien has had the looks of a special player at the plate. Now in his third professional season, it can be argued that he has the best power in the New York Yankees farm system. Despite subpar defense behind the plate, O’Brien’s bat is good enough that he could hit his way to the major leagues by sometime next season.
Through his first dozen games with the Trenton Thunder, O’Brien has laced seven home runs and is hitting .280. His newest manager, Tony Franklin, indicated that he has never seen someone on such a tear during their first few weeks in Double-A. Franklin described O’Brien as someone who has “easy power,” a trait he once saw in Barry Bonds.
“When you see Pete hit a baseball, you have to say to yourself, ‘That's a little different than everyone else’,” Franklin told me. “He puts a swing on the ball and he squares the ball up, and the ball will go out of the ballpark. That's pretty doggone good. Barry Bonds had that kind of power. It's pretty obvious to me the kid's got something very special about him.”
Franklin is not the only one issuing raving reviews on O’Brien. Hall-of-Famer and former Yankee great Reggie Jackson told me Thursday that he had just two words to describe what he has seen from O’Brien during Trenton’s four-game series with the Harrisburg Senators.
“Oh boy,” Jackson said while raising an eyebrow. “You gotta look at Strawberry to see that kind of power.”
“He hits like me,” the Hall-of-Famer turned Special Advisor to the Yankees added. “And that’s a compliment.”
Jackson did not stop there, indicating that O’Brien’s power reminded him of great home run hitters such as Dave Kingman, Dick Allen, and Willie McCovey.
O’Brien’s ability to put the ball over the wall in any direction is not the only thing being noticed by Franklin and Jackson.
“It's loud,” Franklin said of the sound the ball makes leaving O’Brien’s bat. “It's different from all the other hitters...It's the contact of the bat and the ball. It's a totally different sound.”
Jackson echoed Franklin’s assessment, indicating that the bat speed at impact with the ball is what leads to O’Brien hitting some of the loudest balls he’s ever seen.
With his power being compared to Hall-of-Famers such as Jackson and McCovey, the bar is set high for the 23-yer-old from the University of Miami. However, O’Brien has remained modest despite taking Minor League Baseball by storm, realizing that he cannot rest on his laurels if he expects to make it to the top level of the baseball world.
“I'm trying to be as consistent as possible with everything,” O’Brien said in an interview. “I know the things that I can do well, and I think [the key] is trying to make those things as consistent as possible.”
Part of that consistency, O’Brien believes, will come from making the jump out of the low minors. He noted that because players receive so much more information in Double-A than in the lower levels, it forces you to focus more on honing your skill set.
One of the things O’Brien is trying to hone is his abilities behind the plate and in the field. A catcher by trade, O’Brien is thought by many to be a first baseman or right fielder in the long term. For Peter, the goal is to prove them wrong while improving himself at other positions at the same time.
“Right now, catching is my priority,” O’Brien said when asked about how he handles trying to develop at multiple positions. “I'm always going to give catching the benefit of the doubt, that's always going to be first when I have to work on something.”