When the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired catcher Peter O’Brien from the New York Yankees last summer in exchange for Martin Prado, he came to the organization billed as an excellent power hitting prospect whose future was not behind the plate.
The D-backs, though, insisted that he could succeed as a backstop, and earlier this month chief baseball officer Tony La Russa talked about how O’Brien had been improving every day.
“I’ve seen a guy who is very smart, very tough, very talented, and has a fierce desire to work and learn, which are great traits for a catcher,” he said.
Things are a bit different a few weeks later.
O’Brien, who hit .250 with two RBI in spring training, has been reassigned to minor league camp, and while he’s there it looks like the 24-year-old will be getting work at some new positions.
“I think he’s going to go down and he’s going to play, not that they’re going to move him all around, but I think they’re going to let him play a little bit at other places just to start out with and then get back behind the plate,” D-backs skipper Chip Hale told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “I think he just needs a little break and he’s going to dictate some of this. We’re going to have some meetings here down the stretch and talk to him.”
In three minor league seasons, along with catcher O’Brien has seen action at third base, first base and right field, with varying degrees of success.
But if nothing else, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect has power, as evidenced by the 66 home runs he’s hit in 1,058 professional at-bats.
So even if he ultimately can’t hack it at catcher, the organization will do all it can to get him on the field somewhere so he can be in their lineup.
“He’s such a good prospect for us, we want that bat to play,” Hale said, comparing O’Brien’s situation to that of Yasmany Tomas. “We need to see the bat play and then we’ll find a spot because his camp, we felt like he received and handled the pitching staff really well but he just wasn’t swinging the bat at all, so we need to see that come back at Reno.”