Now In KC, Don’t Assume Peter O’Brien Is The Next Chris Carter…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We’ve long heard the hype surrounding Peter O’Brien, though a lack of a true position and significant strikeout rates have caused his value to plummet.  In 79 PA in the Majors over the past two seasons he’s posted a gaudy 40.7% strikeout rate (though he has chipped in 6 HR).  Those numbers pale in comparison of what he’s done at Triple-A over the past two seasons:

  • 2015 – .284 with 26 HR and 107 RBI over 490 AB
  • 2016 – .254 with 24 HR and 75 RBI over 406 AB

Obviously the positional concern gets wiped away now that the Royals can utilize him as the DH.  The strikeouts, though, remain an issue as he was at 33.9% while at Triple-A in ’16.  Couple that with a minuscule 5.3% walk rate and it’s easy to imagine Major League pitchers continuing to take advantage of him.

Just look at how Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 recently described O’Brien’s approach at the plate:

The swing can get long and strikeouts will likely always be part of the equation.  He’s also not a patient hitter so the two combined could make it difficult for O’Brien to hit enough to profile as a major league regular.

The first reaction will be to compare him to someone like Chris Carter, as a significant power option who could pile up the strikeouts.  It’s been a long time since Carter played at Triple-A, but look at the strikeout & walk rates he posted while at the level:

  • 2010 (551 PA) – 25.0% // 13.2%
  • 2011 (344 PA) – 24.7% // 12.2%
  • 2012 (324 PA) – 22.8% // 11.7%

O’Brien did own a 23.2% strikeout rate in ’15, but again he failed to show a strong eye with a 5.8% walk rate.  The inability to show a good eye and being over aggressive is a distinction not to be overlooked.  It led to unbelievable Whiff% against breaking balls (35.29%) and offspeed pitches (47.06%) last season (small sample size alert).  Given what we know, is it really a surprise?

The power has the potential to play, but you have to make contact in order to tap into it.  Kansas City is a good fit, given the lack of a true DH option.  That said jumping to the conclusion that O’Brien is a lock to fill the void would be a mistake.  There’s far too much risk and power simply isn’t as hard to find as it once was.

Sources – Fangraphs, Prospect 361, Brooks Baseball

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