Top Prospect #13: Chris Roberson

It would have been nice to see Chris Roberson play a full season at Clearwater in 2004. He was putting up phenomenol numbers until his season was cut short by an injury. Now, Roberson looks to put the injury behind him as he looks to move ahead to AA Reading in 2005.

In a minor league system noted for pitching, Chris Roberson distinguished himself with a breakout season in 2004. The 26 year old center field prospect put up impressive numbers at Clearwater only to have the unthinkable happen. His season was cut short by a broken leg, which fortunately, turned out to not be quite as serious as first thought. By the fall, Roberson was in Arizona and playing well in the Arizona Fall League.

The key now is for Roberson to show that the injury hasn't caused him to lose any of his valued speed and for him to conquer AA baseball to continue his climb through the Phillies minor league system. The early indications are that both issues should prove to be no problem for Roberson to handle as the Phillies search for their next center field prospect. While Roberson is seemingly next in line, there will be challenges from other young speedsters that the Phillies drafted in 2003 when they looked to fill a speed void in their organization.

2001 Gulf Coast 0 13 .248 38 133 17 33 8 1 6 16 30 .329
2002 Batavia 2 24 .276 62 214 29 59 8 3 17 26 51 .377
2003 Lakewood 2 32 .234 132 470 64 110 19 5 59 57 108 .331
2004 Clearwater 9 38 .307 83 313 52 96 13 6 16 27 71 .371
Career 13 107 .264 315 1130 162 298 48 15 98 126 260 .353

Batting and Power: The Phillies have believed all along that Roberson would develop some power potential. He started to show that potential last season before the injury cut his season short. His strikeouts are too high and he would likely be better off dropping the search for power and simply relying on putting the bat on the ball. Maybe he could ask Jimmy Rollins about that? He will take some walks, although those numbers fell last season as the power went up. The bottom line is that he has decent on-base percentages, but making some adjustments would bump that number up and allow him to become a more dangerous player.

Baserunning and Speed: Roberson has excellent speed and stole 59 bases at Lakewood in 2003, a Lakewood team record. He uses his speed both on the basepaths and defensively. Again, learning some offensive discipline would help him to get on base more and use his speed and he could also use some help in learning to bunt and use his speed in that way.

Defense: Not only does Roberson have speed to help him out defensively, but he has good instincts. He's not afraid to dive for balls and get himself dirty on defense. He has a strong, but not overly impressive arm. Overall, he is a definite asset in center field defensively.

Projection: In 2005 Roberson will play at AA Reading. This is where many contenders get separated from the pretenders in their class. All indications are that Roberson is prepared for the jump and should be able to handle the challenge with little or no problems. He will have the stigma of coming off a pretty serious injury to contend with, but he helped to put all of that to rest in the Arizona Fall League where he hit 1-6-.269 in 26 games. Of course, he was thrown out six of the eleven times that he attempted to steal, so the Phillies will have to determine what was up with that. He has the potential to be a well above average major league center fielder, but could also fall into that gap between searching for power and using his speed in every possible way. Let's hope not.

ETA: Roberson will need a full season at both AA and AAA and likely get a look in spring training of 2007. If things were to go perfectly and they were in dire need of a center fielder for 2006, Roberson might get some consideration, but it's more likely the Phillies would look for a stop gap approach until he had the proper minor league seasoning.

Comparison: Roberson has a young Jimmy Rollins written all over him. Rollins has had to learn that power simply isn't his game. If Roberson can learn that if the power comes, so be it, he will be a much better player. Concentrating on putting the ball in play and making things happen is much more suitable for Roberson than trying to hit lower in the order and look to hit homeruns. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has compared Roberson to former Dodgers' great Willie Davis. "I've seen Willie Davis play on ESPN Classic," Roberson said. "That's a real compliment."

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