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Marlins should call up Large Adult Son Peter O’Brien

The Hialeah native has impressed with the club’s Jacksonville and New Orleans affiliates. O’Brien is a non-prospect, but could bring a new dimension to the Marlins offense without blocking younger players.

Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks
Photo from the last time O’Brien played first base in a major league game (June 27, 2016)
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I may be a bit biased. My time as a student at the University of Miami overlapped with Peter O’Brien, who transferred there for the 2012 baseball season to improve his MLB draft stock and convince teams that he could stick at catcher.

It worked. O’Brien slashed .340/.441/.626 with 10 home runs and 40 runs batted in, leading the team in each of those categories. The Yankees selected him in the second round of the draft. Within two years, his bat carried him up to Double-A, but his 6-foot-4 frame proved to be a poor fit behind the plate. He caught only three of 29 would-be base-stealers in the Eastern League on top of struggling with receiving and blocking at each level, too.

Seeking veteran improvements at the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline, the Yankees settled on the versatile and respected Martin Prado. The price to acquire him from the Diamondbacks? Peter O’Brien (plus a second player to be named later).

Employed by the same franchise four-plus years later, I’d like to see something of a role reversal. The Marlins have indicated that Prado will be utilized at first base and off the bench after he completes rehabbing from a quad strain.

That playing time would be better suited for O’Brien. Here’s why:

Swing-and-miss tendencies prevented O’Brien from sticking with the Dbacks when he earned call-ups with them in 2015 and 2016 (40.5 K% in 79 total plate appearances). He signed with the Marlins three months ago when the Dodgers grew impatient with his early-season 39.3 percent strikeout rate.

However, the new-look Marlins of 2018 have insisted that they’ll reward recent performance, regardless of the individual’s track record. True to that philosophy, O’Brien was promoted from Double-A Jacksonville to Triple-A New Orleans in late July. His production has surged even more since then. In 72 games as a member of this organization, he enters Tuesday batting .239/.363/.565 with 22 home runs. Perhaps most significantly, the South Florida product has found a better compromise between max-effort swings and making contact (28.1 K% with Jax/NOLA).

Marlins Park has been looking unnecessarily large lately given the lack of legitimate power threats on the roster. In 18 home games since the All-Star Break, the Fish have blasted only nine home runs. Wins and losses don’t matter much at this stage of the season, but simply from an entertainment perspective, O’Brien brings the goods.

Now 28 years old, O’Brien is certainly not a priority. Let me make that clear.

That being said, his path to The Show is more realistic than it might’ve seemed a week ago. Garrett Cooper was closing in on reclaiming the same kind of role on the Marlins before re-injuring his wrist. Surgery is being considered and his season appears over either way. Starlin Castro cleared waivers, allowing him to be dealt to any contending team that has a need arise at second base between now and the end of the month.

O’Brien could claim a precious 40-man roster spot from Cooper or Castro as the corresponding move to a 60-day disabled list placement or trade, respectively. Other expendable players on the 40-man include Tyler Cloyd and James Needy.

As I explained when Prado got hurt in Atlanta, it’s past time for the Marlins to stop treating him as a fixture in the lineup. When freed from that mindset, it opens up a wide array of alternatives. I have no shame in admitting that O’Brien is my choice for that role down the stretch.