On Friday the Cincinnati Reds and the Tampa Bay Rays worked out a trade. After the Reds designated left-handed pitcher Cody Reed for assignment, Tampa Bay decided to pick him up and worked out a deal that would send Cincinnati right-handed pitching prospect Riley O’Brien.
Riley O’Brien Background
Tampa Bay selected Riley O’Brien in the 8th round in the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. He had been pitching at the College of Idaho that season, but had previously pitched at Everett Community College. In 2017 at the College of Idaho he threw 67.0 innings with a 2.15 ERA – splitting his time between the rotation (6 starts) and the bullpen (14 appearances).
After the draft he was assigned to the Princeton Rays and he made 10 starts and one relief appearance, dominating the Appalachian League. In his 41.0 innings he allowed just one home run, posted a 2.20 ERA, and struck out 40 batters with 17 walks.
With a strong professional debut behind him, the Rays sent him to Bowling Green and the Midwest League to being 2018 and he didn’t skip a beat. He made five starts and 10 relief appearances, posting a 2.05 ERA in 48.1 innings, allowing just 23 hits, striking out 66 batters, and walking 21. The walks were still a tad higher than you’d want to see, but hitters weren’t able to do anything else against him. He was promoted at the midseason point to Charlotte in the Florida State League. More advanced hitters made him work a bit more as the then 23-year-old posted a 3.60 ERA in 40.0 innings with 21 walks and 37 strikeouts.
In 2019 he returned to Charlotte to begin the season and made six starts, dominating along the way. O’Brien posted a 1.59 ERA in 34.0 innings with 35 strikeouts and 15 walks before being promoted to Double-A Montgomery. The righty made 11 starts and three relief appearances, posting a 3.93 ERA in 68.2 innings with 72 strikeouts and 29 walks to finish out the season.
After the trade, the Cincinnati Reds sent Riley O’Brien to join their alternate roster at Prasco Park.
Riley O’Brien Scouting Report
For an 8th round pick from a college you may not have known even existed until you read this article, Riley O’Brien has some real stuff. As a starter he’s a guy who sits in the low-to-mid 90’s, and he’s touched 97 MPH more than a few times in his career. The fastball, though, isn’t his best pitch. That honor would go to his slider, which is an above-average to plus offering. He also shows a change up, but it’s a below-average one that will likely need to improve if he’s going to remain a starting pitcher.
The stuff is clearly there for Riley O’Brien. The control, however, is an area where he needs to improve. One scout I spoke to loved his slider, but noted that it isn’t ready for the Major Leagues right now because he often can’t throw it where it resembles a strike at any point and big leaguers will never be tempted to swing at it. If he can improve his control a little bit, he’s got the look of a reliever who could pitch near the back end of a bullpen.