Coming off of the best season of his professional career in 2018, Brian O’Grady outdid himself in 2019. The 27-year-old former Rutgers start spent his entire minor league season with the Triple-A Louisville Bats. At the plate he came out and hit .280/.359/.550 for the Bats in 112 games played. His .909 OPS was easily the best in the farm system among players with at least 350 plate appearances this year.
Brian O’Grady’s 28 home runs tied Aristides Aquino for the farm system lead. His 30 doubles were third most in the system. His 20 steals were the 7th most in the system. O’Grady also finished 3rd in runs scored with 71 and he led the organization with 77 runs batted in.
It wasn’t just what Brian O’Grady did at the plate, though, that earned him the award this year. Granted, he most certainly raked in his time with the Cincinnati Reds Triple-A affiliate. But O’Grady also was very valuable in what he was able to do in the field. A majority of his time was spent at first base, where he started 61 games. But he also started 28 games in center field, 15 games in left field, 3 games at third base, and even got a start in right field. The ability to play everywhere, and to play many of the spots well, is incredibly valuable.
The all around game for Brian O’Grady showed a wide array of skills. He hit for plenty of power, smashing 59 extra-base hits in just 112 games this season. He showed off speed as he stole 20 bases in 24 attempts. There was positional flexibility and skills on display at five different positions throughout the season. He hit for average and he got on base. All of that earned him a chance to reach the Major Leagues for the first time since being drafted in 2014. That’s way cooler than winning Player of the Year from this website, but he gets that one, too.
What separated Brian O’Grady from the others?
This award came down to three players: Brian O’Grady, Aristides Aquino, and Jose Acosta. Each player had some argument that could be made in their favor. Let’s start with Aristides Aquino. He posted a .992 OPS with 28 home runs in just 78 games played. That matches O’Grady in the home run department and tops him in the OPS department. Jose Acosta hit .403 for the DSL Reds and hit .395 overall between there and the AZL Reds this season. And he did that while posting an OPS of 1.060 and stealing 26 bases in 27 attempts.
Both of those hitters had a higher OPS than Brian O’Grady did. Acosta also stole more bases. But when looking at the entire picture the thing that I kept coming back to was playing time. O’Grady had 489 plate appearances on the season and played in 112 games. He had 50% more plate appearances than Aristides Aquino did on the year (in the farm system). Toss in that he also probably had a defensive advantage thanks to all of the time spent in center field, and that he stole 20 bases, and that made for an easier choice in that one.
When it came down to Jose Acosta, it’s tough to say that Brian O’Grady had a better offensive season. Acosta hit .395/.481/.579 on the season with 26 steals. But he also only played in 53 games and most of those came at the lowest level of the farm system. That’s not really his fault, but doing it at Triple-A – even with the juiced baseball – carries more weight. Those two things, the playing time and highest level of play were the deciding factors here.