In spring training last year, Drew Robinson drew a walk in 5 minutes and 47 seconds, or 13 pitches, as seen in this video (credit to Tepid Participation). Though he played much of 2013 in the shadow of fellow third basemen Ryan Rua and Joey Gallo, Robinson deserves recognition for his skills, as he fell just outside the pre-season top-15.
Robinson was drafted by the Rangers in 2010 out of Silverado High School in Las Vegas in the fourth round, and decided to sign with the Rangers over attending the University of Nebraska, starting his professional career as an 18-year-old with the rookie team in Arizona. He then spent 2011 between Arizona and short-season Spokane, hit a sound .273/.409/.444 in Hickory in 2012, and then entered his age-21 season with high-A Myrtle Beach, starting at third with higher-profile prospects at short, second, and in the rotation.
Demonstrating a remarkably patient approach at the plate, Robinson has had a consistently decent walk rate in his minor league career, to go along with a slightly higher-than-average strikeout rate. He’s not particularly a contact monster, but he also isn’t like his fellow Rangers A-ball third basemen who posted ridiculously high strikeout percentages. In his 122 games with Myrtle Beach, Robinson batted .257/.369/.404, but a look at his later-season splits show adjustments to the league, as from June 10th on he hit .290/.410/.464. That second-half split is close to, if not better than his production in Hickory, and the steady overall improvements paint a picture of a prospect making regular progress in his approach. Though he only hit eight home runs in 2013, his bat speed and frame suggest future power potential, with some saying he could come close to 20-homer seasons down the road. With the more pitcher-friendly conditions in the Carolina League, it’s likely that some of Robinson’s 13 South Atlantic League homers turned into the 26 CL doubles, and that a return to an offense-friendly league as well as physical maturation could improve those numbers.
One thing that Robinson has in his favor is his defense. At 6’1”, Robinson has good natural athleticism and reflexes, as well as a decent arm. Third base was his only position in 2013, though he was drafted in 2010 as a shortstop and has played everywhere but center field and catcher in his minor league career, though Baseball Prospectus’s Jason Parks mentioned a possibility for him behind the plate.
Robinson only fell out of the top-15 due to the explosive nature of the two other third basemen near his level in 2013. His slow start and non-dramatic production were overshadowed somewhat by the sheer power exhibited by Ryan Rua and Joey Gallo, who between them hit 72 homers in 2013. He’s a classic case of the player who does lots of things well, but in one year didn’t do anything particularly “great.” Doing a lot of things well, though, is one of the surest paths to a major league job of some kind, and if Robinson develops some more power, that could just add to his resume.
Robinson should start the year with Frisco, though he’ll likely have to split the position with Rua, who played only 23 games with the ‘Riders last season. Either or both of them may spend time at DH or getting experience in the outfield. Despite the potentially limited playing time, Robinson has a chance to break out this year and make his way on to some midseason lists, especially if his projected power plays up and he refines his strikeout rate a bit. The challenge of advanced pitching could cause a similar slump at the beginning as the year as the move to Myrtle, but he should show steady improvement. If things go well, Robinson could challenge for a major league spot in late 2015, and his athleticism and offense could mean a long career.