When it comes to independent league signings, it’s hard not to root for the improbable. Taking out former major leaguers who go to the Atlantic League to extend their careers, young players who sign with independent teams do so with little prospects to get out of independent league baseball, nor little disposable income. For instance, each team in the Frontier League has a salary cap of $72,000 to try to find the best roster they can to compete and draw fans to their stadiums. The minimum for a player is $600 a month. You can make that writing sporadically for online websites. But players keep hope alive and dream of the day a major league organization will come calling.
It doesn’t happen often, but it did for today’s Random Prospect, Britt Robertshaw. On January 15, 1990, Robertshaw was born and would go on to be raised in Cedar Park, Texas. He was a big part of the roster that went to the fourth round of the state playoffs as a senior. Two other players who played with Robertshaw during that time, Hunter Bailey, and Nathan Thornhill, both went on to play college baseball and get drafted by major league teams after careers at big-time schools (Oklahoma State and Texas respectively). Robertshaw began his post-high school career with Blinn Junior College, a school that former Braves John Thomson, Chad Fox, and Trey Hodges once called home. He was an Academic All-Conference pitcher at Blinn before transferring to Northwestern State. He continued to perform in the classroom, though his numbers fell on the mound and arm injury prematurely ended his season. He was granted a injuryr redshirt for the year. Robertshaw remained mobile and transferred to Tarleton State. He pitched 2012-13 there and recorded 14 saves as a closer while adding 73 K’s to 62.1 innings. With Tarleton State, his ERA was 2.30.
But draft day went in 2013 and nobody called Robertshaw’s name. The business major’s career looked like it may not continue, but a few months later in the August, the home-state Texas Rangers signed the righty after an open tryout where Robertshaw shined while over 275 other players went home. His time with the Rangers…didn’t last long. He was cut after failing to make a roster after spring training. What was next for Robertshaw? How about a new jersey and this time with the Southern Illinois Miners. Do they mine a lot in Southern Illinois? I guess? Playing on a team with former Brave farmhand Matt Crim, Robertshaw appeared in 37 games and struck out over a batter an inning. He also walked 27 in 49.2 ING. And judging by his twitter, it’s also worth mentioning that he appeared as a hitter once and singled in his only at-bat.
After the year, the Braves purchased his contract and brought him to spring training. This time, he stuck and was assigned to the Carolina roster to begin the 2015 season. So far, coming in Saturday, his numbers haven’t been the best. He has a 5.56 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. However, there are some bright spots. His walks are down (4.9 BB/9 in 2014, 3.2 BB/9 this year) while his K’s have been stable. His monthly splits have shown improvement, though the sample size makes them difficult to really make any informed opinion on.
Pitching-wise, you’re looking a guy who has struggled to find consistency on the mound. J.J. Cooper of Baseball America said he could sit in the 95 mph range with the ability to add a couple ticks to his fastball at times, but a week later, he’s lost 3-6 mph off his fastball. It then flips back the other way. Possibly could be due to arm strength, but hard to really tell. I’ve read he has three other pitches, but his lack of a decent hook probably is why no one drafted him. Robertshaw certainly doesn’t have a great chance of ever moving up the ladder to become a Braves reliever (even a bad bullpen typically has guys with good minor league numbers and/or an x-factor like velocity). But considering it took him three different academic spots, an open-tryout, getting cut before his first game, and a year in the Frontier League…getting this far has been pretty impressive. We’ll see how far he can go beyond it.