Scouting Yankees Prospect #41: Mikey O'Brien

O'Brien has a combo of polish and potential

The Yankees drafted Mikey O'Brien in the 9th round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Hidden Valley High School in Virginia. Despite his smaller size, he entered the organization with some arm strength and a solid foundation for a three-pitch arsenal, not to mention great makeup and uncanny poise for such a young player.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Mikey O'Brien
Position: Pitcher
DOB: March 3, 1990
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"It went really well," O'Brien said of his debut season. "It was kind of what I expected. It's definitely different than what I was used to in high school, but I felt I learned a lot of things and I improved a lot."

He went just 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Yankees this past season, but, as most first-year players normally do, he simply tired down the stretch after posting a 0.90 ERA in his first few games.

As is often the case with pitchers in their debut seasons, the numbers take a back seat to their indoctrination to the professional game and the foundation that is created for future success.

"My changeup and my mechanics got a lot better," he said of his brief time in the pros so far. "The coaches were working with me on my mechanics a lot, but throwing my changeup and having confidence in it was the biggest thing because I didn't really throw a changeup until this summer. It felt it was my go-to pitch, especially during the Dominican [Instructs]."

He pitched in just six games in the Gulf Coast League, but he was able to continue harnessing his game in two Instructional League camps this offseason and he admits he felt great before breaking for the winter.

"I feel great with my fastball," said O'Brien. "I struggled a little bit with my curveball to start out the summer and I got hit around a little bit because I couldn't throw that one, or my changeup, for strikes. I was really working on my changeup at that point.

"My curveball didn't start out too well and then the pitching coaches were working with me on different grips to use and eventually I got it to work.

"My curveball and my changeup felt great in the Dominican. That's when I felt the best throughout the summer and the fall, and that helped me out confidence-wise."

Throwing three big league pitches already at 18 years old is a huge plus and it certainly gives him an edge on his internal competition, but it's the other aspects of his game that helps him stand out in comparison to his peers.

"I'd say my poise," he listed as his greatest strength. "I've always been told that throughout my career. If I let up a home run or give up a double, I don't let it get to me.

"That guy is just doing his job just like I'm trying to do mine, and he just got the best of me, that's the way I look at it. I don't let it get to me. I'm not a headcase, I don't get mad at the umpires, etc."

His command, poise, and stuff are a big assets at such a young age. If there is a potential negative, however, it is his smaller stature as he stands just 5-foot-11.

"Mikey O'Brien is a shorter version of Zach McAllister," opined Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. "He came to us with a low three-quarter to side-arm delivery, he had a slurvy breaking ball, a slight changeup, and a tailing fastball.

"In the Instructional League we taught him to stay taller so as to pitch with a little higher arm slot. This has allowed him to pitch more downhill with all of his pitches.

"The curveball and changeup have depth to them and the velocity of his fastball is consistently higher. Mikey is going to do well. My hope is that it all works out as well as it has for Zach."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2008

GCL Yankees

1-0

0

18.0

26

4

14

5.00



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. O'Brien has good command of a big league fastball. Despite his smaller size, he reportedly hit as high as 97 MPH with his fastball in high school, but he mostly sat in the 89-93 MPH range in his debut season. He throws only four-seamers at this point, but he gets good looking movement with it and he pitches down in the strike zone. The movement he gets and the power he throws with suggests he could develop a good sinking two-seamer down the road.

Other Pitches. He entered the organization with a solid curveball. He struggled to find it during the Gulf Coast League season as he was predominantly working on his changeup, but once he rediscovered it he showed good depth with it. The command of his curveball isn't nearly as good as his fastball command just yet, but he has shown an ability to locate it very well during stretches. What has O'Brien and the Yankees truly excited is the rapid development of what could only be labeled a non-existent changeup into one that has plus potential. He doesn't have the best command of his changeup either, the pitch is that new, but he gets good fade with it and when he misses, he misses down in the zone. That's a good sign for future success.

Pitching. O'Brien's game is quite polished for such a young pitcher. He attacks batters with a solid three-pitch big league arsenal and he's not afraid of contact. He was more of a side-to-side pitcher when he initially signed but he has learned to pitch a little more over the top and that has helped him pitch downhill, allowing him to keep the ball down in the lower-half of the strike zone. His game seems perfectly suited for the development of a two-seamer down the road and that will only help him to be a bit more efficient on the mound.

Projection. O'Brien is a bit of a rarity for such a young pitcher. He offers a bit more polish than most first-year pitchers out of high school and he also has a good ceiling as well, showing the potential to develop three plus pitches. He is well built for a smaller hurler and he does have power in his game. It remains to be seen if he will get back to the reported mid-90's with his fastball, but he has a solid enough secondary repertoire and enough power right now with his heater to project as a potential middle of the rotation starter someday, perhaps cut in the mold of an Ian Kennedy type when it's all said and done.

ETA. 2013. With the way he was pitching in the Instructional Leagues this offseason, especially down in the Dominican Republic, O'Brien is on the short list of potential starters in Charleston next season. He's not a lock at this point, however, so he could find himself in Staten Island in 2009 if he falters in Spring Training.

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