When he made the Diamondbacks roster coming out of spring training, there wasn’t a ton expected from Ryan Roberts. Mostly a career minor leaguer, Roberts was expected to be used in a pinch hitting role and part-time utility man off the bench.
Little did Kirk Gibson and D’Backs fans would soon find out that by the end of the season, Roberts was the team’s everyday third baseman and manning the hot corner during Arizona’s postseason run.
Not even the biggest fan of Tatman could have predicted the 2011 he had considering where he was to start off the year. Melvin Mora and Geoff Blum were ahead of Roberts at third at the start of the year. Luckily for Roberts, Mora could no longer hit at the ripe age of 39 and Blum spent mostly the entire season on the disabled list.
With Mora’s best days behind of him and Blum banged up, Roberts would soon be the everyday starter and he wouldn’t disappoint. Roberts will ever be mistaken for Ryan Zimmerman or Aramis Ramirez in terms of numbers, but considering he had only 398 at-bats at the big league level heading into 2011, you come away pretty impressed with the year Roberts put together.
Across the board, Roberts produced career bests. His 19 homers best his long ball totals of 2009 by more than 12. Roberts also set career totals in runs (86), hits (120), doubles (25), RBI’s (65) and stolen bases (18). He struck out quite a bit with 98 K’s, but he essentially canceled that out because of his .341 on-base percentage.
With playing a number of different positions earlier in his career, it would have been saved to assume that Roberts was going to struggle playing third day in and day out, but the opposite was the case. Roberts played some slick third base, making several web gems that made Baseball Tonight on a nightly basis.
In 107 games down at the hot corner, Roberts committed a total of 10 errors, a far cry from Mark Reynolds over the previous seasons.
Despite the career season out of Roberts, many expected the Diamondbacks to upgrade the third base position during this offseason. There were rumors that Arizona was going to show interest in Ramirez as an option, but nothing ever came of it and the veteran eventually signed a contract with Milwaukee.
For now, Roberts is this team’s starter heading into spring training. There are some questions and rightfully so on whether Roberts can remain this team’s everyday third baseman because he has yet to produce in back-to-back seasons at the big league level. Following his nice 2009 campaign, Roberts had only 66 at-bats and spent most of that season in the minors.
If Roberts gets off to a bad start in 2012, third base could be a spot the front office addresses before the July 31 Trade Deadline. I am keeping my fingers crossed that won’t end up being the case and Tatman builds on his solid 2011 campaign.