AFL Scouting Report: Chris Roberson

In the middle of his best season ever, Chris Roberson had it all cut short with a broken leg. Luckily, he's a quick healer and he's been able to battle in the Arizona Fall League with other top prospects. That's not to say that he's 100%, but he's very close and is certainly healthy enough to work on his skills and keep moving closer to the majors. In addition to Roberson, find out what's happening with the other Phillies prospects toiling in the desert heat.

Chris Roberson is on the mend, it's going well, but not as fast as he'd like.

"I'll be 100% by the time the [Arizona Fall League] season is over." Roberson said.

So what's the problem?

Roberson explains, "It's a little frustrating to be on the 'taxi squad,' just because I'm used to playing everyday." Playing one out of every four days is a new thing for Roberson, the talented Phillies outfielder has been a permanent fixture in the lineup of every team he's played on since long before he was taken in the ninth round of the 2001 draft by the Phillies out of Feather River (Calif.) JC.

Back then he was what scouts refer to as a 'project.' Incredible speed, quick hands, but he'd been coasting on those tools. 2004 was a big year for Roberson though, as he rode more consistent contact to a .307 average, but injury cut the season short, and he looks at the AFL season as an opportunity to finish what he started in '04.

"I'm doing some different things, and the transition has been tough, especially while I'm still rehabbing, but I'm getting more comfortable every day." Roberson said just after an impressive batting practice session, "Mostly I'm learning to hit leadoff again."

His hot start at Clearwater prompted a move from leadoff to the three hole, and with that came a necessary push for more power. Roberson's speed certainly justifies the leadoff role, and while the average at Clearwater was excellent, the .371 on base percentage leaves something to be desired. "I've been working more on not trying to hit home runs, but just putting the ball in play, taking more pitches, bunting, the things that a leadoff hitter has to do."

Roberson is not oblivious to the fact that there is a hole in the Philadelphia outfield. "I think I can fill that void in center. It might take me a little time to hit up there, but I know I will. I expect to be in the big leagues. That's what everyone down here wants, what we're all looking for."

Roberson's speed will always be his biggest asset, but his stolen base numbers were down this past season. Roberson isn't worried, and says it was more a product of the team's situation than anything wrong with him. "I was hitting in the three spot, so you don't run as much when your cleanup hitter is up. I'm a team guy, I know what the situations are. If it is the right time for me to run, I'll run, but I'm not here to push my own stats, I'm trying to help the team win."

Still he's just four for nine in stolen base attempts, and that too is something he's been working with the coaches on. "Yeah, the coaches down here are working with me on getting jumps and reading pitchers. It all goes back to getting back in that 'leadoff' mindset."

What Roberson has in spades, is defense. He can cover as much ground as any center fielder in the game, major or minor league, and coaches have been impressed with his natural ability to always take the right line to the ball. The defense alone might be enough to get him to the big leagues, assuming of course the Phillies don't go out and sign a free agent center fielder. Roberson knows better than to worry about that though, "I can't control that stuff. I'll play hard, and work hard, no matter where I end up. I'm confident that I'll get my chance, hopefully sooner than later, but I'll get my chance."

Phillies in the desert: Ryan Howard has played in 28 of the Phoenix Desert Dogs' 29 games, coming into Friday. He is still stuck on three homeruns, as he has been since the second week of the AFL season. His average isn't suffering much though, as he's hitting .366 for Phoenix… Keith Bucktrot threw another good game. In five innings, Bucktrot allowed two earned runs on five hits and one walk. He picked up the win to go 1-1 and his ERA is now 3.33 this fall… Carlos Ruiz made his first homerun of the fall a big one. He delivered a three-run shot Thursday to account for three of Phoenix' four runs. Unfortunately, the Desert Dogs lost to the Scorpions 9-4. The loss helped the Grand Canyon Rafters move to within 2 ½ games of Phoenix in the National Division… Buzz Hannahan is admittedly a little tired and is also having to fight for playing time. He has struck out 20 times in 56 at bats and is hitting .250 for Phoenix… Dan Giese has up and down numbers this fall. A rough patch pushed his ERA to 4.86 and he has given up 23 hits in 16 2/3 innings. Still, he has 16 strikeouts and is 2-0. Giese has walked six hitters, but a lot of them came during his down period almost two weeks ago… The AFL season wraps up next week. The league championship game is November 20 and can be heard on MLB.com.

Editor's Note: James Renwick is the managing editor of FutureBacks.com and is covering the AFL for Scout.com.

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