Riley O’Brien, RHP, CIN

Hi, Reds fans! Ready to meet your newest organization pitcher?

Video courtesy of FanGraphs
  • Born: Februrary 6, 1995
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’4″, 170-lbs
  • Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft from College of Idaho.

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

He’s pretty steady from level to level, isn’t he? He puts up a good (or great) WHIP, strikes out a decent (or great) number of batters, and he consistently walks too many. Yet those great WHIPs aren’t being harmed that much. Would you believe me if I told you he has a career .199 oppBA? Yup, that’s how he does it despite the walks. You just can’t hit Riley O’Brien all that hard.

Oh well, you say, that’s just low minors. How’d he do in Double-A? Huh? Huh?

.215 in Double-A, thanks for asking.

Righties in Double-A hit him harder (only a 2-to-1 SO-to-BB ratio, whereas he was 3-to-1 against lefties). But in Class A Advanced, it was the lefties who got a couple of home runs off him, so on the whole he’s not showing much of a split yet.

I see a few more doubles down the right-field line, but overall it’s balanced.

In 2018, in his first full season of professional ball, he really took over A-ball, didn’t he? So they bumped him to A+ and he started out great, but then the grind got to him.

In 2019, with increased velocity on his fastball, he moved to AA and held steady with a much narrower range.

He’s still only 170 pounds at 6’4″, and as he has gained strength, his velocity has improved. When he started in 2017, he had an upper-80s/low-90s FB, and now it’s in the mid-90s, and he hit 97 at times in 2019. He can spin that fastball, and his changeup too that has nasty bite. His curve is also average at times.

The Scouts

Warnings

He’s 25 and just reached AA.

He walks too many.

He needs a consistently good third pitch to remain a starter.

The scouts mostly ignore him.

Conclusion

The Reds now have an athletic pitcher with clean arm action, who has the potential to be in the rotation in a year or so. To do that, he needs to refine his secondaries, and throw more strikes. If he is unable to do that, he will be a force in the bullpen. Either way, the Reds have a good guy on the mound. He will help, it’s just a question of where and when.

I’ll leave the final word to one of the scouts who does have something to say about Riley O’Brien,

O’Brien’s velocity has climbed each of the last two years and now rests comfortably in the mid-90s, with an extra tick of perceived velo due to extension. He’s a classic small-school late bloomer with a good frame and athletic delivery. O’Brien also has an abnormally firm, sinking, upper-80s changeup, and a power, low-80s curveball, both of which look like impact pitches at times. It’s starter stuff, and perhaps more traditional starter’s control will develop late, much like O’Brien’s stuff has.

Eric Longenhagen, FanGraphs, March 18, 2020, Top 56 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays

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