University of Miami

Former Miami Hurricanes making strides in minor leagues

Special to the Miami Herald

Miami's Peter O'Brien hits a single in the third inning during the University of Miami vs the University of Florida baseball game at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables on March 3, 2012.
Miami's Peter O'Brien hits a single in the third inning during the University of Miami vs the University of Florida baseball game at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables on March 3, 2012. Miami Herald Staff

Peter O’Brien was far from Marlins Park this week, but — in a sense — he is also very close.

O’Brien, a former Miami Hurricanes catcher, was named the Arizona Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Month. He was dominant in April, hitting .370 with seven homers and 21 RBI for Triple A Reno.

Arizona manager Chip Hale said he got a visit from O’Brien’s father Wednesday before the Diamondbacks played the Marlins.

“I talked to him for a while,” Hale said. “What I told his dad is [O’Brien] is going to force our hand pretty soon the way he is hitting. That’s the way this game works.

“Peter’s very close to being a guy we call on to help our offense score runs. We love him.”

The problem for O’Brien, 25, is defense. He has been converted to left field, and sources say he is below average anywhere on the diamond.

“He’s always on our radar,” Hale said. “Pete had a great spring. He made a lot of adjustments for us. His two-strike approach changed completely. He was hitting home runs in spring training with two strikes — very impressive.

“He’s learning to play left field. That’s a part of his game that he has to get better at.”

O’Brien isn’t the only ex-Canes star crushing baseballs in the minors.

Third baseman David Thompson, who plays for Columbia, a Low A team in the New York Mets farm system, had a big day Wednesday, going 4 for 5 with a homer, a double and four RBI.

Thompson, who emerged from that game leading the South Atlantic League with 31 RBI, could be on track to be the Mets’ third baseman of the future, perhaps by 2019.

The 22-year-old doesn’t have a lot blocking him in the Mets organization. None of the Mets’ top 10 prospects are third basemen.

A lot can change by the time Thompson is ready for the majors, but if he continues to hit — as is the case with O’Brien — room will be made.

One ex-Canes pitching prospect of note is Andy Suarez, 23, who is in San Jose, playing High A ball for the San Francisco Giants.

Suarez is 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in five starts, striking out 34 and walking five in 29 2/3 innings. He is the Giants’ No. 12 prospect and No. 2 among lefty starters.

He does not have overpowering stuff, but the Giants drafted him in the second round last year, signing him to just over $1 million in bonus money because of his polish. Suarez could vault to Double A this season.

NOVA SOUTHEASTERN

The Sharks baseball team (33-14) is poised to make a long postseason run but will first play their final regular-season series of the year, starting Saturday at Florida Tech. The Sharks are ranked eighth in the nation in NCAA Division II.

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