Position: Right Handed Pitcher Height: 6-3 Weight: 215
Born: 8/10/1982 Bats: Right Throws: Right
O'Brien came to the Tigers as a mid-round draft choice in 2004, but didn't make his professional debut until this season. After suffering a significant shoulder injury around the time of the draft, O'Brien was shut down by the Tigers to avoid serious long-term problems. While at Florida Atlantic, Matt pitched out of relief until his senior season, in which he posted a 3.14 ERA in 17 starts, totaling nearly 100 innings on the season. Considered by many outlets to be one of the top senior college pitchers in the state of Florida, O'Brien was thought to be a bargain pick, and a safe bet to move quickly through a system. After overcoming his setbacks, Matt's debut with Oneonta in 2005 was a rousing success. Matt posted a 3.34 ERA in 89 innings, while logging a strikeout to walk ratio of nearly 2.5:1.
O'Brien is a big, strong pitcher who makes up for his lack of pure athleticism with a grit and determination not often seen in young pitchers. Matt has the classic "bulldog" mentality on the mound, and could adapt to any role on a pitching staff. Using primarily a 91-94 mph fastball, O'Brien has a tendency to pitch to contract rather than truly challenge hitters. As he matures and further develops his other offerings, Matt could become more of a strikeout pitcher. If not, he could get in frequent trouble, as his fastball regularly comes in flat, tempting hitters to give it a ride. His curveball is average at best and needs to gain more consistent, sharp bite to become a legitimate out pitch. Late in his collegiate career, Matt began working with a split-fingered fastball that is still lacking the necessary action to be an effective pitch. Progress was made with both pitches during the 2005 season, but another step will be required for O'Brien to move as quickly as many predicted prior to the 2004 draft. In the field, O'Brien does an adequate job handling balls up the middle and covering the bag.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP WHIP SS-A
O'Brien's assortment of shoulder problems last season were very concerning heading into the 2005 season. With roughly 100 healthy innings in the books, those concerns are slowly dissipating. Another healthy and strong season in 2006 will put concerns over his arm to rest for the time being.
Matt will be asked to help lead the staff at West Michigan in 2006, anchoring what could be the teams third straight stellar rotation. If the success seen during the 2005 season was not a fluke, Matt could excel in the hitter friendly environment of Fifth Third Ballpark. If health is on O'Brien's side next season, we could start to see flashes of a Joel Piniero type pitcher, with a hard fastball and developing off-speed pitches. The key to the 2006 season will be the continued refinement of his curveball; a pitch that will become critical if he is to remain successful as he moves up. With some expected progress, Matt's an early pick to go flying up this list next season.