Prospect Profile: Richie Robnett

Richie Robnett, who was the A's second first round draft pick this June, is the kind of player who does everything well. He hits for average and power, runs the bases well, has a good glove and a strong throwing arm. Yet, despite these skills, many were surprised when the A's drafted Robnett out of Frenso State this year.

Robnett is the kind of player the A's generally don't draft. Scouts term him as a five-tool player, someone who has the talent to excel at all of the five main skill elements for a position player. Going into the June draft, Robnett was seen as a player who would be drafted mostly on potential and not on track record in college. Although the speedy outfielder had a strong season for the Frenso State Bulldogs in 2004, it was only his first season in Division I baseball. Therefore, he was viewed as being somewhat raw entering the draft.

The A's don't generally take risks on "raw" skills players, but they saw something special with Robnett. They liked how he was able to dominate the WAC conference in his first season with Fresno State. They also liked the physical tools he brought to the table. In his only season with the Bulldogs, Robnett hit .384 with 13 HR and 21 stolen bases. Robnett also compiled a .469 OBP and a .699 SLG.

The Redwood City native was well rewarded for his strong season. He was named to the Louisville Slugger and Baseball America Second Teams and he was honored as the WAC Conference Player of the Year. When he was taken with the 26th pick of the June draft, Robnett became the highest drafted player from Frenso State since Jeff Weaver was taken by the Detroit Tigers 14th overall in the 1998 draft.

Robnett was only 20 years old when he made his professional debut with the Vancouver Canadians. Despite being one of the youngest players on the Canadians, Robnett quickly established himself as one of the team's top performers. In 41 games played, Robnett hit .296 with a .388 OBP. Although he hit only three homeruns, Robnett displayed good gap power, slugging 14 doubles and one triple.

He didn't display the same kind of base stealing that he showed in college, but that isn't surprising considering the A's don't emphasize base stealing with their minor leaguers. He showed good plate discipline, walking 26 times against 42 strike outs. Perhaps most impressively, Robnett showed that he can be a good run producer, driving in 31 runs in only 159 at-bats. His strong performance in the Northwest League earned him a late-season promotion to the Midwest League and Kane County, just in time for the Cougars' playoff run. Robnett again impressed against older competition, hitting .321 in the playoff stretch.

Although he may end up playing in rightfield later in his career, Robnett was out in centerfield for much of his first professional season. He showed excellent defensive instincts, taking good routes to the ball and covering a lot of ground. Robnett also displayed an above-average throwing arm.

Robnett may have been considered raw when he was drafted, but he showed great composure and advanced skills during his rookie campaign. While he may start the season in Low-A Kane County, there is a chance the A's will start him as high as High-A Stockton. While he is not likely to make his major league debut until 2007, there is a chance that he could be fast-tracked for 2006.


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