D-backs prospect Peter O’Brien says playing catcher is still an option

Mar 22, 2016, 4:41 PM | Updated: Mar 23, 2016, 9:20 am
Arizona Diamondbacks' Peter O'Brien watches the flight of his two-run home run against the San Dieg...
Arizona Diamondbacks' Peter O'Brien watches the flight of his two-run home run against the San Diego Padres during the second inning of a spring training baseball game, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Peter O'Brien, D-backs' Outfielder

There is one truly undeniable fact about Peter O’Brien.

The guy can mash.

Be it as a catcher or as an outfielder, O’Brien has never had trouble depositing baseballs into the outfield bleachers. He hit 92 home runs over four minor league seasons, and has carried a .273 batting average to go along with the power.

Over 49 at-bats in 19 games this spring, he has batted .286 with four home runs (including a moon shot Tuesday night — see below) and 14 RBI.

Now 25, he would seem like a lock to make the Opening Day roster except for the fact that the D-backs do not really have a place to put him. O’Brien came up through the minors as a catcher, but moved to outfield last season, and that is where he has received the bulk of his work this spring.

A guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday, O’Brien said he played in the infield all through college and did not start catching until he went to college at Miami.

“In college you don’t really have much of a say of where you’re going to play,” he explained. “It’s kind of, ‘hey, you swing the bat, this is where you fit in for the next four years, this is where you’re going to play.’

“In high school I hit a big growth spurt, couldn’t really play middle infield anymore — got a little bit too slow, a little bit too big — I had a really good arm, could swing the bat and they thought they’d try me out behind the plate.”

O’Brien said he enjoyed catching during college and even during his time as a professional, but the decision to move from behind the plate to the outfield was not so much made because he did not want to catch but instead because when he was not focused on what was going on behind the plate, the rest of his game picked up.

Last season, his first full campaign with Triple-A Reno, he slugged 26 home runs, drove in 107 runs and batted .284. Freed from having to worry about calling a game and managing pitchers, he was able to be the kind of hitter that has so many people excited about his future.

“It was nice,” O’Brien said of the switch. “I got to kind of focus on myself a little bit more as a hitter and see some faults and weaknesses and try to work on those and try to get a little better in that aspect of the game.”

While O’Brien has enjoyed his time away from the plate, he’s in no way closing the door on returning to his former spot behind it.

“I think catching is definitely still in the mix,” he said. “I reported to camp as a catcher, pitcher/catcher camp, and went through all that and felt great. Once the position players got here we kind of moved to the outfield and started focusing on that.

“It’s definitely still there. I’ve still got my gear, I still do some work here and there. But I think the biggest thing right now is just focus on my bat and wherever that plays the best and see where I can help the team in that way.”

In terms of where he must play in order to best help the D-backs, O’Brien said he’s lucky to be with an organization that has done a good job of communicating their plans for him. He said his approach this season was to not worry about the things he cannot control and instead just made sure to do the best he could at whatever was asked of him that day.

“Right now that’s swing the bat,” he said. “Whether that’s going to be behind the plate, at first base or in the outfield — right now I’m primarily an outfielder and that’s where I’ve been getting most of my work in, and I feel great.

“But if they were to come to me tomorrow and say, ‘Hey, we want you to go behind the plate again,’ I’m OK with that too. I’m here to be the best player I can be and help the Diamondbacks win a world championship.”

Arizona Diamondbacks

FILE - Chase Field sits empty after the Colorado Rockies decided not to play their baseball game ag...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks claim former Orioles pitcher Zack Burdi off waivers

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced Thursday they have claimed pitcher Zack Burdi off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles.
7 days ago
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 01: Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks signals from the ...
Arizona Sports

D-backs’ Lovullo ready to fill critical roles on coaching staff

D-backs skipper Torey Lovullo spoke with media about how he plans to fill the team's pitching, hitting and bench coach positions.
12 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen joins The Doug & Wolf Show for an interview on ...
Kevin Zimmerman

D-backs to prioritize more power bullpen arms, grinding hitters

Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen believes more power in the bullpen and more grinding hitters at the plate can help turn his team around.
13 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo (17) argues with umpire Chad Whitson, left, during the t...
Arizona Sports

D-backs make multiple coaching changes to start offseason

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo retained his job with a one-year extension, but his staff is not moving forward in the same framework.
13 days ago
San Diego Padres manager Jayce Tingler returns to the dugout after the national anthem before a bas...
Associated Press

Padres fire manager Jayce Tingler after midseason collapse

The San Diego Padres have fired Jayce Tingler a season after finishing second in voting for NL Manager of the Year.
15 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks' David Peralta, right, douses Diamondbacks' Josh VanMeter (19) after VanMeter'...
Associated Press

Diamondbacks clinch No. 2 pick in MLB Draft after going 52-110 in 2021

The Diamondbacks finished with a 52-110 record in 2021, tying the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in the majors.
18 days ago
D-backs prospect Peter O’Brien says playing catcher is still an option