D-backs' Caleb Roberts Gets To Show What He Can Do Behind The Plate
After making some believers in the second half of last year, Caleb Roberts opened more eyes at D-backs camp this spring, pairing a strong lefthanded swing with the ability to play behind the plate.
The 23-year-old Roberts spent most of last season at High-A Hillsboro, splitting time between outfield, first base and catcher. He hit just .175 through his first 39 games but logged an OPS just shy of .800 after that, a turnaround he attributed to a change in approach.
“I was rolling over a lot of pitches and chasing stuff I shouldn’t be swinging at,” Roberts said. “My plate discipline got a lot better when I was hunting pitches out over the plate and driving pitches the other way.”
He did that during a big league spring training game, crushing a 92 mph fastball from Cubs lefthander Drew Smyly onto the berm in left-center field at Mesa’s Sloan Park.
"The ability to take a ball and drive it to left-center field with backspin, balls that carry, that’s not easy to do," D-backs assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye said. "That comes naturally to some guys."
But it is Roberts’ potential behind the plate that makes him most intriguing to the organization. Coaches say he has shown an eagerness to work and improve at a position he has always wanted to play.
Recruited to North Carolina as a catcher, Roberts wound up playing almost entirely in the outfield during his three years there. He said he told teams during the draft process he was interested in catching, and the D-backs, who took him in the fifth round in 2021, are giving him that chance at Double-A Amarillo this season.
“We always thought he could hit,” Sawdaye said. “He’s strong and he has a good approach. But I think another thing that intrigued us outside of the bat is that he did move around.
"We thought he was going to be good at different positions. There’s some athleticism, some instincts. I don’t know where he ends up, but just having that versatility is really important.”