Monday, February 17, 2014

The main purpose of spring training is to get major league regulars into game shape, and for teams to determine their opening day roster. But sometimes spring training also serves to help prospects make a name for themselves.

While this isn't the purpose of spring training it does in fact occur. Because of this, pundits often with little scouting background, give way too much attention to certain players, and small sizes of statistical performances. A lot of time the attention a prospect or any player gets during spring training is nothing more than hype.

Fans saw this last year as Vernon Wells' great spring didn't mean he would rebound, and Jackie Bradley Jr.'s stats didn't mean he was ready for the major leagues. For this reason, it is important for fans to separate hype from reality during spring training.

One prospect that is currently getting a lot of attention is Peter O'Brien.

Despite the fact that zero games have been played, O'Brien is getting a lot of hype due to his impressive power, as several writer,s including ESPN's Buster Olney, have mentioned it. This power was very evident throughout the 2013 season, in which he hit 22 homeruns and 39 doubles in just 119 games. These results occurred in two pitcher friendly parks and leagues.

His performance and the fact that he is a catcher led him to being invited to spring training this season. Where he impressed many observers over the past few days.

Chad Jennings had this to say about O'Brien:

"Today was my first time watching Peter O’Brien take batting practice. That kid hits some monsters! As I told one of the other writers, even standing around the cage O'Brien just looks like a guy who’s supposed to hit a ton of home runs. Big, tall and strong."

O'Brien's received even more praise in a recent New York Times article that can be found here.

The article states his power numbers -- and RBI numbers for some reason -- and suggest he is a possible replacement for Alex Rodriguez. At this point, it's important to remember to separate hype from reality. Jennings wasn't wrong for citing his homerun potential, but the NY Times articles was wrong for suggesting O'Brien is on course to replace a legend.

At the moment, all O'Brien really has is power. He may or may not be able to maintain a good OBP as he advances. After all, his OBP was only .314 in High-A. In truth, this would be fine if he was a catcher or a third-baseman, but he has yet to master either position.

It's important that fans don't get their hopes up too high, what he does at batting practice or even at the plate isn't as important as what he does behind the plate or at third. O'Brien may very well leave spring training with more value than he has now, but it's important not to just look at his power and start talking about him as a future starter, because he is still a bit of a project.

I believe that he could become a good player, but that would depend more on what he does in Double-A next season than how he performs this spring.

What I am writing about O'Brien is applicable to every prospect and player. While we'd obviously rather see good performances from our players, it isn't only about numbers, especially not spring training numbers.


Josh Sabo is a Minor League writer for Yanks Beat Blog.


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