There aren’t legitimate levels to the various unaffiliated leagues like there are for Minor League Baseball. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a general consensus on where unaffiliated leagues would fall on such a level system. There are a few leagues at the very top, right below major league level but clearly better than AAA level. One of the leagues at this level is Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana. Watch a few games from LIDOM and it is clear that the league is damn near close to major league caliber. That’s one of the main reasons why affiliated players head to LIDOM. They can score a decent payday during the affiliated offseason and work to improve their game against stout competition.
Peter O’Brien is a player trying to improve their game in LIDOM while scoring a decent payday to boot. O’Brien has been playing professional baseball since 2012. I tell you this because there’s a chance that you don’t know who I’m talking about. Or, if you do, he’s strictly an “Oh, yeah, I remember that guy” sort of player. The kicker is he’s still playing, not only that he was playing in Major League Baseball this past season. Playing for the Miami Marlins isn’t exactly a one-way ticket to baseball fame, but they are still a major league ballclub and O’Brien is still a seasoned major league ballplayer.
The 2019-2020 season isn’t O’Brien’s first foray into the LIDOM stratosphere. To keep with the ongoing theme of O’Brien’s career, you would be forgiven if you didn’t realize that this is the second year in a row that O’Brien has suited up for Toros del Este. I’m someone who regularly watches LIDOM, and I totally blanked on the fact that lanky right-hander had previously spent time in LIDOM as well as in Liga Mexicana del Pacífico. My reason for forgetting is valid, O’Brien wasn’t just bad in his previous three winter ball stints, he was forgettably bad.
That’s what makes O’Brien’s current production for the Toros so interesting. As of this Sunday, he’s slashed .262/.390/.538. The batting average isn’t special, but it’s still a full 62 points higher than his previous winter league high. What really stands out is the on-base percentage. He’s put up those numbers in 159 plate appearances. Throughout the rest of his career, O’Brien only has one season with over 100 plate appearances and a better OBP. He’s had seasons where he showed the ability to regularly slug the baseball. He’s never actually put it all together at the same time until this year in LIDOM.
I don’t hesitate to say that if he keeps up his current production O’Brien has a shot at winning LIDOM”s Most Valuable Player award. That’s quite a jump for a guy whose previous time in LIDOM went so badly that the Toros gave up on him after 15 games. This time out O’Brien has turned himself in a mashing machine and a mainstay in the Toros lineup. 8 home runs, 8 doubles, and 2 triples are the hallmark of both legitimate power and speed. I’m not sure where this production has been from O’Brien for the rest of his career. He has struggled mightily at every AAA and winter league stop during his time as a pro. Not to mention his struggles have carried over to the big league level.
There’s no real reason for the change in O’Brien’s numbers. I’ve watched him play a handful of games, and he’s the same hitter as he’s been his entire career. His approach is the same, a big swing that whiffs quite often. The key has been a better pitch recognition than he’s ever displayed before. With the Marlins O’Brien would flail away throughout the count to the point where it seemed like he never had any inkling of what pitch might be on the way. His first move in the box during the 2019-2020 campaign has looked more assertive. He still whiffs a lot, but he’s showing an improved ability to adapt to what pitchers are throwing his way.
Peter O’Brien isn’t about to become well-known thanks to his 2019-2020 LIDOM season. However, his major league career was on life support and his performance in the Dominican may be bringing about another shot at the major league level. If nothing else it’s been a lot of fun watching O’Brien bop the heck out of the ball against really great competition in LIDOM. That I can believably type out the words Peter O’ Brien, Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana MVP is one of the coolest things happening in baseball right now.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – LigaDOM.com