Top Prospect #13: Chris Roberson

The only thing potentially standing in the way of Chris Roberson being the Phillies starting center fielder in the near future is other players. The future of center field will belong to one of a group of players, which certainly includes Roberson near the top of the list.

Coming into 2005, Chris Roberson had a lot going against him. He suffered a broken leg late in the 2004 season, which cut short a big season he was having at Clearwater. So, not only did Roberson have to prove he was healthy last season and would suffer no ill-effects from the injury, he was challenged by the Phillies, who had another young center field prospect, Michael Bourn, skip over Clearwater to play at Reading. It all worked out well with both Roberson and Bourn playing well and each of them getting some time in right field in the process. After all, that's a change that one of them may need to make down the road.

Is Roberson ready for the majors now? Probably not, but he's not far away. There is no way the Phillies would keep him with the big league club to have him sit on the bench. Instead, he and Bourn will both be at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre and if needed, Roberson could come to the major league level at some point during the season. That's only if needed and, if Roberson is playing the way the Phillies believe he's capable.

'01 Gulf Coast 0 13 .248 38 133 17 33 8 1 6 16 30 .336
'02 Batavia 2 24 .276 62 214 29 59 8 3 17 26 51 .377
'03 Lakewood 2 32 .234 132 470 64 110 19 5 59 57 108 .331
'04 Clearwater 9 38 .307 83 313 52 96 13 6 16 27 71 .371
'05 Reading 15 70 .311 139 553 90 172 24 8 34 40 112 .365
Career 28 177 .279 454 1683 252 470 72 23 132 166 372 .356

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 9th round of the 2001 Draft.

Batting and Power: After hitting just four homeruns in his first three seasons - granted, two of them were short-season leagues - Roberson has 24 homeruns over his last two seasons. Over the last three seasons though, Roberson has been striking out at a pretty high rate. The good news is that he showed slight improvement in 2005. In 2003, Roberson struck out once every 4.3 at bats and struck out once every 4.4 at bats in 2004. Last season, he improved to one strike out every 4.9 at bats, so there is some limited progress there. Over the last two seasons, Roberson has put up good on-base percentages, which is what the Phillies are looking for from him.

Baserunning and Speed: Last season, Roberson stole 34 bases, but hasn't come close to his career high of 59, which is a Lakewood team record that Roberson established in 2003. He's got plenty of speed, which is why it's so important for him to get on base, so he can make things happen. The really good news is that there doesn't seem to be any lingering effects from his broken leg that he suffered in 2004. At the time, there was a lot of concern over how that would change Roberson's career, but he's come through it just fine and it's not an issue.

Defense: It was tough for opposing hitters to drop a ball into the Reading outfield anywhere from mid-left field all the way over to the right field line last season, because Roberson and Michael Bourn were patrolling center and right fields. The two alternated who played where and that's not out of the question for them to do at the major league level somewhere down the road. Roberson has good defensive skills and his speed helps him get to the balls that a lot of other outfielders simply wouldn't get to. His arm isn't exactly a cannon, but it's adequate and accurate.

Projection: Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Greg Golson and Roberson are just a few of the outfield prospects that the Phillies have in their system. Golson is likely to be the best of the bunch, but none of the others are slouches. It's likely that at least one of these guys will turn into trade bait somewhere down the road, possibly as early as this season. It's a talented bunch, but they're also pretty similar type players and there won't be room for all of them. Roberson certainly has the skills to play at the major league level. There's no way to tell who the Phillies value more. At 26, Roberson is the oldest of the bunch by a year over Victorino. Bourn is just 23 and Golson is just 20. With Aaron Rowand signed through next season, it's likely that one of the older guys - Roberson or Victorino - could be the bait to go elsewhere.

Comparison: Roberson still draws a lot of comparisons to Jimmy Rollins. Both have plenty of speed and are best when they just try to get on base. The problem with both is that they each have a decent amount of power and try to use that power as a bigger part of their game than it should be. They're both also learning though that they can be much better overall players if they just do what they do best - get on base, make things happen and let the power show itself at the right times.


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