CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Playoff Prospectus: NL... (10/06)
No Previous Column
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Fir... (10/07)

October 7, 2011

Prospectus Playoff Quickie

Enter Tatman

by Daniel Rathman

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

When Ryan Roberts came to bat with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers leading by three in the 10th inning of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ penultimate game of the regular season, the energy at Chase Field was high, even though the stakes were low. The NL West crown had long been clinched, and home-field advantage in the NLDS was only possible for the Diamondbacks if the Brewers lost their game the next day. Yet Roberts’ grand slam—which capped an historic six-run rally that began with two outs, nobody on, and a win-probability of one in a thousand—put a cherry on top of a remarkable regular season that would have seemed incomplete without it.

Arizona inked Roberts as a minor-league free agent in November 2008, after he spent five years in the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system and another in Triple-A for the Texas Rangers. An 18th-round pick out of University of Texas-Arlington in 2003, Roberts was never regarded as a top prospect, and instead emerged as a sleeper with the potential to be an above-average hitter and play multiple positions. Still, the Jays and Rangers were only able to serve Roberts brief cups of coffee between 2006-2008, during which he went 2-for-27 with 12 strikeouts.

Prior to the 2009 season, Roberts was known for two things: He hit a home run in his first big-league at-bat in 2006, and he had more tattoos than just about any player in league history.

The Diamondbacks, though, were intrigued by Roberts’ offensive approach—most notably, his .388 on-base percentage for Triple-A Oklahoma in 2008. Arizona handed Roberts his first Opening Day roster spot in 2009, and eventually gave him the keys to the keystone by trading Felipe Lopez that July. Their faith was rewarded with an 839 OPS in 200 at-bats after the All-Star Break.

Two years later, the Tatman is now as much an icon at Chase Field as MVP candidate Justin Upton or Cy Young hopeful Ian Kennedy. He proved that by winning the teams write-in vote to determine which player’s bobblehead would be distributed at its last Saturday home game.

While things looked dim for Arizona during an 11-15 April, Roberts started the season on a .313/.413/.594 tear in his first 21 games, locking down a full-time role for the rest of the year. Playing primarily at third base, Roberts’ 19 homers ranked third in the NL at the position. He also emerged as a legitimate weapon against left-handed pitching, logging a .278/.392/.489 triple-slash against southpaws with more walks (25) than strikeouts (21).

When they fell behind by a run facing elimination in the first inning of Wednesday’s Game Four, the Diamondbacks needed to answer quickly against Brewers starter Randy Wolf. Once again, they had Roberts at the plate with the bases loaded and two out. And, once again, Roberts sent Phoenix into a frenzy with a grand slam.

Roberts was the right man in the right spot on Wednesday night, just as the D’backs were the right spot for him when he came to the desert in 2009. Then 29 years old and on the verge of exhausting his prospect status, Roberts needed a chance and got it with the perfect team. The D’backs offered a home park friendly to Roberts’s right-handed power, a cost-conscious organization willing to see if his minor-league success would translate to the majors, and—by 2011—an opening at third base thanks to the departure of Mark Reynolds.

Now on the wrong side of 30, Roberts is unlikely to have many years of sustained big-league success. He is this year’s version of last year’s Andres Torres—a player whose heyday is likely to be short, but who captures the hearts of his team’s fans and emerges, at least for a season, as one of his team’s most valuable contributors. Torres’ table-setting and elite defense propelled the Giants to the World Series. Roberts’ power and plate discipline have helped boost the D’backs from the division cellar to within a game of the NLCS.

If the Diamondbacks defeat the Brewers and advance on Friday, they’ll be four wins away from an unlikely pennant, and eight wins away from an even-less-likely World Series championship. But they wouldn’t be here without Roberts, just as he wouldn’t have attained cult hero status without them. Whether Roberts’s breakout 2011 is a one-year wonder or just the first hurrah of a late-blooming career, in the words of Jason Aldean’s recently-released song, the Tatman has left his tattoo on the town of Phoenix.  

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Ryan Roberts

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Playoff Prospectus: NL... (10/06)
No Previous Column
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Fir... (10/07)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article The Stash List: 15th Edition
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Monday, July 2...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: July 29, 2014
BBQ State of Mind
Notes About Baseball: The Logistics of Human...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Migration of the B...
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Trading Ryan Howard For No...

MORE FROM OCTOBER 7, 2011
Baseball ProGUESTus: Moneyball and Money Men
The BP Broadside: The ALDS Goat Remains Mask...
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: New York Yankees
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Interview with Tout Wars Mixed...
Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: First, Third, and DH for ...

MORE BY DANIEL RATHMAN
2011-11-29 - The BP First Take: Tuesday, November 29
2011-11-28 - The BP First Take: Monday, November 28
2011-11-08 - BP Unfiltered: Now in the Newsletter, the BP...
2011-10-07 - Premium Article Prospectus Playoff Quickie: Enter Tatman
2011-09-29 - The Prospectus Hit List: Daily Hit List for ...
2011-09-28 - The Prospectus Hit List: Daily Hit List for ...
2011-09-27 - The Prospectus Hit List: Daily Hit List 9/27...
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS PLAYOFF QUICKIE
2011-10-07 - Premium Article Prospectus Playoff Quickie: Enter Tatman
More...