Since the end of the 2012 season, it hasn’t been hard to name the top prospect in the Oakland A’s system. Even with incumbent top prospect Addison Russell traded to the Chicago Cubs in July, naming the top prospect in the A’s system still isn’t a difficult call. The new number one prospect is the man who was selected one spot after Russell in 2012: shortstop Daniel Robertson.
The A’s have been high on Robertson’s potential since they selected him with the 34th overall pick in the 2012 draft. However, his national profile as a prospect rose dramatically this season thanks to a standout year with the High-A Stockton Ports. Serving as the Ports’ lead-off hitter for much of the year, Robertson posted a .310/.402/.431 line in 132 regular season games.
"As a whole, I think I improved a lot since spring training." - Daniel Robertson
Robertson finished the year as the Cal League’s leader in hits (170). He also led the entire A’s minor league system in that category and finished second in the A’s system in batting average and on-base percentage.
“You are always trying to come out here and compete and play hard,” Robertson said before the Ports’ second post-season game last week. “I saw that [he was leading the Cal League in hits] and I really didn’t know until maybe the last couple of weeks in the season that I was chasing it. It was awesome, for sure. My main goal is just to get on base and let the big guys do damage behind me. I was fortunate enough to do that this year. Hopefully, I can continue to keep doing that.”
It was a big year for Robertson not only because he established new career-bests in several statistical categories, but also because he was able to stay healthy for the entire season. He missed the first six weeks of the 2013 season while recovering from a knee injury.
“I’m happy with the year I had, with all of the hits and leading the league in that, but I think the main thing that you want to do is play a whole season and come out of it feeling healthy,” Robertson said. “To come out here and play 132 games, and play almost all of those games at short and feel fresh all year, that’s huge for me. I felt strong throughout the year. It took a lot of work to stay with my routine and make sure that I am maintaining my body the right way. It went a long way.”
Robertson has continued to play well during the post-season. He reached base six times in two post-season games for Stockton and, when the Ports were eliminated from the playoffs, he was promoted to Double-A Midland. In four Double-A playoff games, Robertson has reached base four times and he hit his first Double-A homerun on Wednesday.
When the Texas League Championship Series ends, Robertson won’t have much time to rest before he is back on the field. He is part of the A’s Arizona Fall League contingent and he will be suiting up for the Mesa Solar Sox starting on October 7. Robertson will be reunited on the Mesa squad with his close friend Russell, who will be competing in the AFL for a second straight year, this time for the Chicago Cubs.
Robertson is looking forward to seeing how he measures up to the AFL competition and playing with Russell again.
“I feel like it will prepare me for the upcoming season,” Robertson said of his impending AFL assignment. “It’s going to be a blast. Playing with Addison [Russell] again and [Matt] Olson will be there. It will also be good to see all of the guys participating and see what you are competing against. I want to go out there and keep doing the same thing: having fun playing ball.”
When Robertson and Russell were teammates on the A’s Arizona Rookie League squad in 2012, Russell got the nod at shortstop most frequently, with Robertson moving over to third base. This fall, both players are likely to see time at short and will also likely see time at other infield positions. Robertson isn’t worried about where he will be playing defensively for Mesa.
“That’s not up to me [who will play SS],” Robertson said of sharing the shortstop position with Russell. “We work well together. I love playing with him, so we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be a good experience for me.”
Robertson played a lot of third base in high school and early in his pro career. This season, he appeared in eight games at second base during the regular season and has suited up at second for Midland in the playoffs. Although he doesn’t have a lot of experience at the position, Robertson feels comfortable there and is prepared to play that role, if needed, this fall.
“There are good players going to the Fall League and if they say, ‘we need to get some innings from you, so go play second base,’ I’d be fine with that, for sure,” Robertson said. “I feel comfortable enough there. I’m probably not the best that I could be there, just because I haven’t worked on it as much this year, but I feel comfortable enough there to get some innings under my belt. Whoever is in charge, they will tell me where to play and I’ll have fun.”
Robertson was one of the most consistent players in the A’s system this season. He didn’t post an OBP lower than .379 or an OPS lower than 792 in any one month in 2014. He hit better than .300 versus both left-handers and right-handers and he had an 809 OPS in the first half and a 938 OPS in the second half. In 2013, Robertson was more up-and-down, alternating good months and average months for the Low-A Beloit Snappers. He improved his walk rate by two percent and reduced his strike-out rate by more than three percent between 2013 and 2014. Robertson isn’t just an offensive force. He is also a talented defensive shortstop and scouts said that his range improved in 2014.
The Southern California native credits the improvements he made this season to his good health and being able to be on the field day-in and day-out without restrictions.
“Getting more at-bats under my belt was huge,” Robertson said. “I think my controlling the strike-zone was a little better, as well. I think coming out here and playing is going to make you better.
“This year I had a better year defensively than I did last year. I had a little more errors this year, but all around, I think I’m improving defensively and controlling the strike-zone and getting on-base. As a whole, I think I improved a lot since spring training. This year was definitely a good year for me.”
A’s minor league hitting coordinator Marcus Jensen was Robertson’s first professional manager back in 2012 with the A’s Rookie League team and he foresaw big things in Robertson’s future back then.
“When we first got him, he was impressive in the sense that – you try not to throw the term around ‘gamer’ too often with too many guys because you use that as a badge of honor, but immediately that was the impression that I had with him, that he was a gamer,” Jensen said earlier this week.
“He understands the game in terms of trying to do all he can to better himself as well as the team. To do that, he keeps pushing. With that mentality, I don’t think you ever stop growing or ever stop learning. I expect him to continue to get better, or at least maintaining as he develops and progresses through the system.”
Robertson was part of a 2014 Stockton Ports squad that posted the best overall record of any team in the California League. Although the Ports weren’t able to advance in the post-season, they put together one of the most memorable regular seasons in recent franchise history. Much of the core of the 2014 Ports’ squad has played together since the 2012 season. That group has shared a special bond over the past few years and they have fed off of each other’s success.
“We have an unbelievable group [in Stockton],” Robertson said. “We have some of the best guys I have been around. You have guys coming down from the big leagues to rehab with us – like Ryan Cook and Josh Reddick and Craig Gentry – and those guys go back up there saying what a great group of guys we are and how loose and fun we are.
“We have a great clubhouse. It starts at the top with [manager] Ryan [Christenson], Was [John Wasdin, pitching coach] and Mac [Brian McArn, hitting coach]. We had a lot of the same team last year and it made the transition easier coming here from Beloit. New guys come up here all of the time – whether through promotions or trades – and we make them feel at home here. It’s a special group.”
Earlier this week, Daniel Robertson announced that he is forming the Daniel Robertson Family Foundation in honor of his late father, Don, who passed away last year. For more information on the foundation, please visit the foundation’s Facebook page.