O'Brien's slam bolsters Glendale in rout

Dodgers prospect guesses right, belts his first AFL home run

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com | October 31, 2013 4:45 PM ET

Chris O'Brien guessed correctly, and that was all Glendale needed Thursday.

The Dodgers catching prospect mashed a grand slam in the second inning as the Desert Dogs blew out the Peoria Javelinas, 10-2, in Arizona Fall League action.

O'Brien smacked his blast with no outs get Glendale on the board. Marlins' No. 4 prospect Colin Moran led off the inning and reached on a throwing error by second baseman Cory Spangenberg. After that, No. 7 White Sox prospect Brandon Jacobs lined a single into left and Travis Mattair (Reds) followed with a single to center.

With the bases loaded, O'Brien stepped to the box thinking he'd get a breaking pitch from left-hander Kyle Hunter. When Hunter left a 74-mph curveball up and in to the right-handed hitter, O'Brien bashed the pitch over the wall in left.

"I was actually sitting on the breaking ball," O'Brien said. "I know most guys in that situation will like to try to flip in a breaking ball to get ahead and work with a strike. I was looking for slow and elevated, and I got it and didn't miss it."

O'Brien said his experience as a backstop probably helped him to anticipate the breaking ball.

"I think it helps to be a catcher in those situations," he said. "Bases loaded, everyone tries to attack in kind of the same way. I was trying to think of what I would do."

The home run was O'Brien's first of the AFL season, and it was the first grand slam the 24-year-old said he could remember hitting in a while. The Dodgers catcher batted .195 with three homers in 64 games with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga this summer, and his performance Thursday raised his AFL average to .167.

The catcher said his home run helped take some pressure off his bat for the rest of the game, allowing him to put his focus on his catching. Glendale's pitchers held Peoria scoreless until the eighth, with starter Jamie Walczak (Reds) logging three one-hit innings.

"He can throw three pitches for strikes," O'Brien said of the right-hander. "Works fast, works down. Catchers love those kinds of guys. They can keep hitters off balanced. It's hard to square him up."

O'Brien was an 18th-round Draft pick by the Dodgers in 2011 out of Wichita State, where he was a teammate of No. 9 Miami prospect Brian Flynn. He and Flynn grew up in neighboring towns around Tulsa, Okla., and O'Brien said he and the 2011 seventh-round Detroit pick are often in touch during the season. Flynn made his Major League debut with the Marlins late in the season.

"We're both from the same area back home, work out together sometimes," O'Brien said. "When he got [to the Majors], he was my roommate in college, so it was a big thing and I called him to congratulate him. I know he struggled up there, but he doesn't let that bother him.

"It's pretty cool. I played against him in high school, and to watch him kind of change over the years, it's crazy to think where we are now."

The 24-year-old is the son of Charlie O'Brien, who caught for Wichita State before embarking on a 15-year Major League career.

"Not many people can say that for their entire life, they've been taught how to play like that," the younger O'Brien said. "I talk to him as much as possible about baseball, and I talk to anyone at this point. I'm always trying to learn something.

"He doesn't have all the answers, but he has quite a few of them. It helps to have that different opinion from someone who, even if he might not see the game, he understands it, understands certain situations. That helps a lot."

O'Brien also lined a single to center in the seventh. Moran finished 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, while Mattair went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run.

San Diego's No. 14 prospect Spangenberg went 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk, two RBIs and a run.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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