Roberts Lights Up Desert With His Bat

Twins outfielder stays hot in Arizona Fall League





MINNEAPOLIS—Outfielder Nate Roberts has done a season's worth of hitting in a month.

That's the way it looks to the Twins, anyway. The organization has been so impressed by Roberts' blazing bat in the Arizona Fall League that he's a prime candidate to skip a level come next spring.

"He's seeing better pitching than he's used to, and he's making all the necessary adjustments," said longtime farm director Jim Rantz, who is retiring this offseason. "He's done so well, it looks like he's ready for Double-A."

That would mean spending next season at New Britain, a big move for 2010 fifth-round pick, who has spent the past two seasons at low Class A Beloit. But Roberts has hit so well in Arizona that he has practically looked ready for Cooperstown. In just 19 games with Peoria, Roberts piled up 29 hits, eight for extra bases, and 11 walks, giving him a slash line that looks like it was lifted from a slow-pitch softball league: .468/.580/.694.

"He's shown he's going to hit, right from the beginning," Rantz said of the 23-year-old, who has posted an on-base percentage of at least .433 in all three professional seasons. "But he's taken a step forward in Arizona."

The Twins had planned to send outfielder Joe Benson to the AFL before knee surgery derailed those plans.

"We looked at (Roberts), and said, 'Why not challenge him? Let's see if he can handle it," Rantz said.

Knee injuries have also slowed Roberts' progress, but Rantz says the Twins see him as a potential leadoff hitter with doubles power and aggressiveness on the bases. He also hugs the plate, which got him hit by pitches 52 times in two seasons at Beloit. "He's turned that into a weapon of its own," Rantz said. "With his plate discipline and his ability to get on base, he's coming into his own."

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins signed Tim Wood, who was rated the Triple-A International League's top reliever in Baseball America's Best Tools survey. Wood, 30, collected 21 saves and recorded a 2.19 ERA for Indianapolis in the Pirates organization. The Twins also signed Indianapolis catcher Eric Fryer, 27, who batted .204 in 2012.

• County leaders in Lee County, Fla., approved a $42.5 million package of renovations for Hammond Stadium, home of Twins spring training and the high Class A Fort Myers Miracle since 1991. As part of the agreement, which will increase stadium capacity to 9,300 and provide at least one more practice field, the Twins signed a 30-year lease that will keep them in Fort Myers through 2045.