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Monday, November 19, 2007

Is Chris Roberson the New Michael Bourn? 

With the trade of Michael Bourn to the Astros as part of the Brad Lidge deal and with Aaron Rowand’s near-certain departure in free agency, the Phillies 2008 Outfield is going to look very different than it did in 2007. Over in Left Field will be Pat Burrell once more, while Shane Victorino will probably keep his current slot in Right Field because of his terrific arm. Jayson Werth, the talented former Dodger who hit .298 with 8 home runs and 49 RBI in limited action in 2007, will likely get the Center Field slot. Greg Dobbs, who had 55 RBI in equally limited playing time in 2007, seems slated to be the Phillies fourth outfielder and primary pinch-hitting weapon.

The Phillies need a new reserve outfielder to back Dobbs, who played 86 games in the infield in 2007 and seems likely to get significant time there in 2008 as well. The speedy Bourn filled the role to a T, entering numerous games as a defensive substitution and being a pinch runner 35 times. Bourn’s speed was electrifying.

Enter the Phillies newest speed man, Chris Roberson.

Roberson, the Phillies ninth-round selection in the 2001 Draft, seemed destined to be the Phillies fifth outfielder in 2007, but Charlie Manuel and the Phillies high command gave the job to Bourn in a surprise move. Roberson returned to Ottawa to play for the Lynx, the Phillies Triple-A affiliate in the International League. Roberson played well: hitting .266 (.313 OBP), scoring 64 runs with 48 RBI in 113 games. Roberson drew 31 walks, hit 21 doubles and 3 triples, and stole 19 of 28 bases. Needing help with Bourn and Victorino down with injuries, the Phillies recalled Roberson and utilized him for several games.

With Bourn gone, it seems likely that Roberson will get some playing time in 2008. The question is: Can Chris Roberson be Michael Bourn?

Let’s look at Bourn’s resume: in 2006 he played with the Phillies Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. In Double-A Reading, Bourn had a .350 OBP and stole 30 of 34 bases he attempted. In Triple-A Scranton (the Phillies previous Triple-A affiliate), Bourn had a .368 OBP and stole 15 of 16 bases. When he joined the Phillies in 2007, Bourn pretty much held to that line of performance, with a .348 OBP and 18 of 19 steals.

Roberson’s performance in the minors hasn’t been so good. In contrast to Bourn in 2006, Roberson’s Triple-A performance in 2007 was fifty-five points lower and his stolen base success rate was much lower: 68% to 94%. Roberson did better in 2006 with Scranton: hitting .292 (.349 OBP) and stealing 25 of 34 bases (73%).

It seems to me, looking at Roberson’s minor league stats, that he used to run more before the Phillies minor league instructors put a stop to it. In 2005, with the Reading Phillies, he stole 34 of 48 bases. In 2004, with the Clearwater Threshers, he stole 16 of 28 bases. In 2003, as a member of the Lakewood Blue Claws, he stole 59 of 75 bases. In 2002, as a member of the Batavia Muckdogs, he stole 17 of 25 bases. His steal rate has consistently been about 70-75% and his OBP has been a solid .350 - .360. Those are good stats and auger well for his performance in 2008.

Davey Lopes, the Phillies first base coach and designated speed instructor, will no doubt work with Roberson in 2008 Spring Training and develop his technique. Perhaps Chris Roberson won’t achieve the same number of wow plays that Bourn did in 2007, but he’ll be a solid runner and will give the Phillies another terrific threat to take second base.

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I'm sorry, but Roberson needs to go. He brings nothing else other than speed, and his speed doesn't even translate into solid defense. After watching him almost single handed blow that game against the Braves where he forgot to take his sunglasses with him into right field and then completely misread a line drive (that would've been the final out of the game) his not being able to hit isn't cute anymore.
Dear A Citizens Blog,
Chris Roberson will likely be non tendered in the next few weeks. He cannot catch a ball, which is something the Phils organization told him to work on when they sent him back in the first (!) round of cuts to the farm during spring training, 2007. For someone who reports so much on the Phillies, you seem to not have a single idea of how baseball works.
bourn is potentially an upcoming star in this league...please, comparing a utility guy like roberson to him does not do well for your blog.
i'm glad that garland trade you were saying worked out.
for all you roberson haters, take a look at his development through the minors. as far as his defensive ability, you must not have seen him play much. his athleticism is as good as anybody in pro ball and has a well above avg arm. as an everyday guy in the minors, he stayed consistent and was always near or above the .300 mark. he's young and needs playing time. amazing how many experts there are out there.
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