Brian Roberts (AP)
Prospect Retrospective: Brian Roberts
The Orioles are having a great season, and a big reason is the sudden hitting surge from infielder Brian Roberts.
Roberts was a supplemental first-round pick in 1999, from the University of South Carolina. Although many scouts questioned his small size and relative lack of power, he was a refined college player expected to advance quickly through the farm system. Many thought he would be a utility player, albeit a very good one.
Roberts hit .240/.350/.323 in 47 games for Delmarva in the Sally League after signing. He showed good speed with 17 steals, and did a fine job controlling the strike zone, but had little power. I gave him a Grade C+ heading into 2000, noting that he was intelligent and polished but that his future would depend on how well he hit.
Roberts missed more than half of the 2000 season due to an elbow injury, but he played well when healthy, hitting .301/.405/.374 in 48 games for Class A Frederick in the Carolina League. There was still no power, but he drew a lot of walks, stole 13 bases, and reduced his strikeout rate compared to his pro debut. I gave him another Grade C+, noting that "if he improves and maintains his hitting, he could be a regular" eventually.
2001 began with Roberts in Double-A, where he hit .296 in 22 games. Moved up to Triple-A, he hit .267/.380/.323 in 44 games for Rochester, then spent the rest of the season on the Major League roster, hitting .253 in 75 games. He spent most of '02 back in Triple-A, hitting .275/.361/.377 with 22 steals in 78 games, then emerged as a semi-regular with the Birds in '03.
Entering 2005, Roberts as a career .263/.328/.360 hitter in the Major Leagues. His sudden power spike this year is a big part of the reason that the Orioles are doing well. He is now 27, and this is likely his peak season. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this sort of offensive production down the road. While no one expected Roberts to start hitting this many home runs, please note that he did hit 50 doubles for the Orioles last season: what's happening now is that some of those doubles are turning into home runs.
Roberts' minor league track record is marked by excellent plate discipline and a reasonably low strikeout rate. There were no real hints that he could develop a lot of power, but the fact that he always made contact and controlled the strike zone well has enabled him to develop.
Comparable Players to Brian Roberts (based on Sim Score and PECOTA, no current players listed)
Sam Bohne (a 1920s infielder)
George Cutshaw (1910s infielder)