Switch-hitting middle infielders with a good hit tool are always worth an extended look - even in a system that has both Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. While Omar Obregon isn't close to reaching their prospect status, he has done enough to warrant some attention as we head into the summer of the 2016.
(For some pictures of Obregon, click here.)
Born April 18, 1994 in Nicaragua, Obregon comes from a nation that has rarely produced any decent major league bats. Only one player was both born and raised in Nicaragua and received at least 2,000 career plate appearances - Everth Cabrera. Just that is enough to work against the young infielder. Nevertheless, the Braves during the Frank Wren years loved Obregon's game enough to sign him when the 2011-12 international free agent period opened up.
After a year spent in the international complex, Obregon was added to the Dominican Summer League squad in 2012 as an 18 year-old. Walk numbers are very unreliable at that level because of the wildness from opposing pitchers, but he did walk 21 times to just 19 strikeouts. However, aside from two doubles, most of his 25 hits were of the single-base variety, giving him an ISO of just .021. Weight room much? A promotion to the states in 2013 with the Gulf Coast League Braves saw his numbers fall at the plate (this time, he had one triple and 24 singles).
The 2014 season would see Obregon rebound to hit .297 with a .384 OBP - with the assistance of 24 BB/25 K rate. He also upped his ISO to a bit more respectable (.049). Another move that may have helped is that the Braves were able to move him off shortstop, where he really doesn't have the arm, and more him over to second base - especially with Albies joining him in Danville. While it decreases his overall value and certainly, Obregon can play shortstop, it's a bit of a stretch for him.
The following season saw Obregon jump into full-season ball with Rome. In 119 games, Obregon slashed just .274/.336/.317, but did swipe 31 bases after just 17 steals in the previous three years in short-season ball. The unfortunate thing was that Obregon was caught 19 times, which is a terrible stolen base rate. After spending the spring with Team Nicaragua in their efforts to qualify for the next World Baseball Classic, Obregon joined Carolina to begin this season and has displayed improved extra-base skills with a nearly .100 ISO so far. Yes, that's pretty terrible, but it could be a sign that Obregon is maturing a bit. His skills on the base pathes continue to need work (2-for-6 in steals so far).
I'm providing a more robust scouting report to Outfield Fly Rule so please check that out for more information, but suffice it to say, what we have seen is what we get with Obregon. Defensively, he's smooth at second and while his arm isn't plus-grade at short, it's plenty good at second base to make all the plays. He shows good instincts with the glove. The Braves have used him at both corner infield positions. I think his arm is good enough for spot duty at third, but no more than that. He's a bit on the short side to play first base, but it's good to see him get work around the infield as his pathway to the majors will be as a utility player.
His best case scenario will be to follow the Martin Prado path. Let me say that it's unlikely he will ever match Prado's pop and so Obregon will likely be limited to being only a backup. With that in mind, Obregon could succeed in that role. His best offensive tool is his hit tool as he has good bat control. With a switch-hit bat coming off the bench and a penchant for putting the ball in play, Obregon could find enough green grass to rack up some hits. He's unlikely to walk much, but with his quick-and-compact swing, he's unlikely to strikeout much either. He has good speed, but lacks the instincts and/of confidence to turn that into successful steals.
All in all, Obregon is part of a good collection of talent that is in the 45-60 range as far as a Top Braves Prospects ranking would look. Similar to Luke Dykstra, there is enough hear to see Obregon progressing into something useful - but also not enough hear to think that is very likely.
For more on Obregon, remember to check out my scouting report. In addition, here are some old videos of Obregon.