Mid-Season Scouting Report: Richie Robnett

2004 first round draft choice Richie Robnett is unquestionably one of the most athletically gifted players in the Oakland A's system. The muscular outfielder was a little rough around the edges when he entered the A's system. Paul Rathert gives us a mid-season scouting report to see where Robnett's game is at right now.

Robnett was a high draft pick of the A's in 2004 and, thus far in his career, he has displayed a lot of the talents that prompted the A's to take him with the 26th pick in that draft. Some pundits have criticized Robnett for a myriad of supposed deficiencies from a lack of plate discipline to the fact that he seems to have lost some of the speed he possessed at Fresno State. He has responded to these criticisms by putting together a second solid season at high-A Stockton.

After a solid spring training that included a short stint with the A's big league club during the Bay Bridge Series, Robnett came into the season with the goal of working on his plate discipline. It is still a work in progress, but he is showing development.

Richie Robnett's 2006 numbers, through 6/19/06





























Physique: At 5'10", Robnett is not a tall, lanky outfielder in the mold of a Shawn Green or a Ken Griffey Jr., other left-handed hitting outfielders, but he is a physical specimen. His 200 pounds is packed onto a muscular frame that won't need to mature any on his way to the majors.

Stockton Ports manager Todd Steverson was quoted in a preseason interview as saying that Robnett had the "body of a Greek God". Robnett has a solid body similar to that of a strong safety in football and if he has slowed down any, it may be because he had bulked up at the cost of some of his athleticism. He is not someone a catcher is going to enjoy holding back if he decides to charge the mound. Robnertt has a solid trunk and broad shoulders. He also has a strong lower-half.

Defense: Right now, this is the brightest spot of Robnett's game. His route-running was a bit rough in right last season, but it has improved this year. He seems to be most comfortable in centerfield. Robnett gets better jumps there and takes better routes. His arm has earned him a reputation for being someone you shouldn't run on unless you want to give an out away.

One interesting thing that Robnett has done which goes unnoticed a lot with left-handed throwers is that he knows how to adjust for the natural tail his throws have coming in from the outfield. He has a quick release, as well. Defensively, a center fielder with a right fielder's arm is an asset to any pitcher. He has average-plus range in center, but if you asked him to make up for two slower corner outfielders, you might be asking too much.

Offense: If Robnett finds a home in centerfield, it would probably help his projections just because he may not ever hit for enough average to be a productive corner outfielder. He has improved on his plate discipline and is on pace to hit more home runs, strike out slightly less, walk slightly more and have higher percentages (AVG, OBP and thus OPS) all around. They are not enormous improvements, but they are heading in the right direction.

There is no doubt that when he makes contact he hits the ball hard. Robnett has hit a few home runs to dead center in Stockton that not many other minor leaguers could match. He has a natural uppercut in his swing, and he is most successful when he's driving the ball up the middle. His opposite field stroke could use improvement and it will no doubt make him a more balanced hitter overall.

Robnett hits lefties better than righties and seems to rise to the occasion with men on. One odd thing is that he has struggled in the home confines of Banner Island Ballpark this season while flourishing on the road. Banner Island has a right field porch perfect for a left handed pull hitter, but the delta breeze may also knock down some of his well struck fly balls. That porch may also be too tempting for Robnett, causing him to swing for the fences more at home than on the road.

Overview: Robnett has the potential to become an average-to-plus defender with average-to-plus offensive numbers as a center fielder. As a corner outfielder, he might have a hard time making his way to the majors, especially in an Oakland system where Travis Buck has already accelerated past him and, depending on how his recovery from preseason Tommy John surgery goes, Javier Herrera might follow suit. If he continues to improve his plate discipline and works on making more consistent contact, getting his strikeouts down to 100 should be within his capabilities.

Robnett is a hard-working, humble player and he takes pride in improving his game. If he can get it all to click then he could be one of those hitters who has high totals in homers, walks and strikeouts and contributes on defense with his arm. He has a lot of talent for someone who picked up the game as a hobby and he's attempted to adapt the organizational philosophies to his game.

Depending on how the A's major league outfield shapes up at the trade deadline, a late-season call-up to Midland is possible. In the future, there might be more than a few organizations with an eye on Robnett that see a player with athleticism, strength and a strong arm and may ask for him to be thrown into a trade.

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