Former Arizona Diamondbacks top prospect Kristian Robinson is close to returning to his professional baseball career, three years after he was arrested for allegedly punching an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer.
The outfielder served an 18-month probationary period and received an email Saturday that his work visa had been approved, setting up his first official action since 2019, according to Diamondbacks director of player development Josh Barfield.
The D-backs applied for Robinson’s reinstatement Monday and will have 30 days to activate him to the 40-man roster with plans to send him to Single-A Visalia to restart his career, Barfield said.
“This has been a really difficult process from start to finish,” Barfield said on a conference call Tuesday. “I think he has grown a lot during this period. You forget how young he is … look, we know he’s put himself in this situation, but at the same time, he’s very apologetic, he’s learned a lot.”
Robinson, who is now 22, was arrested on April 5, 2020, shortly after MLB was suspended at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officers found him on the side of Interstate 10 in Phoenix walking in the traffic lane. According to police records, an officer asked Robinson to sit in his patrol car, which the baseball player initially did before trying to get out of the car and punching the officer.
After the arrest, Robinson apologized through the team to the officer and the Diamondbacks, citing struggles with mental health issues. The team, Barfield said, believes it has established a strong support system around the young Bahamian.
“Just mentally, he’s come a long way,” the farm director said. “He has returned the smile, the joy. He was not the same Christian going through this.
Robinson went through counseling and community service to be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony, which Barfield said allowed him to apply for a work visa.
The outfielder, who was ranked by MLB.com as the team’s top prospect in 2020, had returned to the field in the spring, working extended games before a hamstring injury derailed his plans for a comeback .
Robinson has spent the last week plus nursing that injury.
Robinson in 2019 played for Single-A Kane County and Low-A Hillsboro, combining to slash .282/.368/.514 with 14 home runs and 51 RBI over 69 games played.
Barfield said that while the three-year ordeal has set Robinson back from his development, the youngster remains among the best bats in the D-backs organization and could become a professional outfielder.
“Very, very good spring training. We were very encouraged with where he was, especially in attack. The (At-bat) approach has always been something that has been an area of focus,” Barfield said.
“I think his physical gifts are unique. He’s a big, strong kid, he looks like a football player when you see him,” added Barfield. “Power is the thing that stands out. … The power is still there, it’s very, very real. Consistency with contact is always going to be the thing we focus on, which is maximizing power potential.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.