Sunday, June 22, 2014
Recently announced; Beloit middle infielder, Sam Roberts, has officially converted from his engrained middle infield post for the Snappers to the bullpen after a whopping five appearances out of the Turtles bullpen in emergency situations after being bestowed with positional pitching duties prior to the 2014 campaign. Roberts compliments former positional transitions such as Sean Doolittle, Jeremy Barfield, the recently released Jensi Peralta and Jesus Rivas that establishes Oakland as a prominent experimental organization that will now attempt to wring any remaining potential from the 25 year old Virginian in hopes of another success story and furthermore definitively hammer down the A's "Cinderella" narrative. Unlike Doolittle however, the previous four of Barfield, Roberts, Peralta and Rivas switched due to offensive struggles and plus potential with arm strength rather than the wrist issue that significantly hampered Doolittle's swing mechanics and incited a shift to the hill where Doolittle dominated as a two way prospect at the University of Virginia en route to Brooks Wallace award nominations. Roberts, like Doolittle, pitched significantly at a Virginian institution as the VMI alumni vacillated between closing roles to Friday night rotation duties all while featuring as the Keydet's offensive juggernaut. This differentiates Roberts from Jeremy Barfield, who had absolutely zero pitching experience outside of his little league pursuits and required a thorough AZL and instructional gauntlet for Barfield to prepare for the California League. Thus far for the hulking righty former corner outfielder, predictably he has wound up struggling at times and his production has fluctuated for the Ports through his 31 2/3 IP, with a 37:27 K/BB and a cringe worthy 6.01 FIP. Wielding a promising 24.5% K% however, Barfield could very well reconcile with the organization and re-sign for another attempt in 2015 after his contract expires this offseason. Jensi Peralta, formally a middle infielder, demonstated similar qualities to Barfield within the AZL featuring bunches of strikeouts and walks, but evidently wasn't enough to convince the A's to retain him. Jesus Rivas, a DSL outfielder prior to his shift, shined as the Dominican closer during his initial campaign through 2013 and rightfully acquired an immediate American promotion and mildly shocking Vermont assignment to bypass the AZL entirely, as the Caribbean righty competes for a Midwest League post come 2015.
Sam Roberts, unlike any of these previous examples, was the only one to have pitched within a contest as a positional player and the lone individual to have convinced the Athletics to shift him due to his output upon the mound in extra inning bouts and disparaging blowout defeats, as the versatile righty was unlikely to have ever ascended to Stockton via his offensive potential. Roberts was teetering upon the edge of release following his anemic production within the field after accumulating a .244/.307/.307 slash through 143 PAs with 6 XBHs and a 10:37 BB/K to contribute to an even more abysmal .222/.329/.302 result through a career 592 PAs between Vermont, Burlington and Beloit following his induction into the organization after inking as a 26th round 2011 draftee. Partaking in his pitching debut with Vermont, surrendering a walkoff HR, Roberts then appeared through two contests with the Snappers during the previous campaign in 2013 to amass a 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K with his lone punchout being of the unanimous #1 overall prospect in baseball, Byron Buxton. For this campaign however, Roberts was bestowed with a dual role prior to April with Ryan Mathews coupling as another cataclysmic 15th inning replacement to don the mound and amassed a 7 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K line through five appearances that culminated in a 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K appearance within a 17th inning Beloit victory in which Ryan Mathews also hurled a pair of innings to earn the victory. His final offensive appearance occurring on June 9th and his three inning effort transpiring on June 10th, Roberts has spent the previous 10 days preparing without any AZL seasoning to shift and appeared in his first outing as an exclusive pitcher on June 21st, going 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K in his most exquisite appearance as a professional while punching out Austin Wilson to conclude his outing.
"They decided he was going to do both a while ago, probably after the second time he pitched. But it was more recently they made him just a pitcher" Said Ryan Mathews, Roberts' teammate in Beloit. "[Sam Roberts] looks really good off the mound and throws a 88-90 MPH fastball with some good movement and a good slider.... He originally through he'd be drafted as a pitcher"
With no remaining hope for Roberts to assimilate as a positional farmhand, the 25 year old now has adopted renewed optimism upon the mound and now complements Trevor Bayless as the Snappers' newest bullpen additions following Blake McMullen and Tyler Hollstegge's transitions toward Vermont from Wisconsin. With Roberts' contract having yet to expire until the conclusion of the 2017 campaign, performances such as his previous effort may very well salvage his prospects of aspiring to a major league career, or at the very least a long awaited Stockton promotion.