An A's first-round draft pick from Fresno State in 2004, Robnett batted .256 with 58 home runs, 114 doubles and 252 RBIs in 449 games in five seasons in the A's farm system.
Sellers, who turned 23 on Sunday, played in 123 games last season at Midland, batting .255 with six home runs, 15 doubles, eight triples and 46 RBIs. The A's drafted the middle infielder in the sixth round in 2005 from Marina (Calif.) High School. In four seasons in Oakland's farm system, he batted .256 with 15 home runs, 70 doubles and 145 RBIs in 417 games.
One of the people who followed the careers of Robnett and Sellers with the A's was Melissa Lockard of OaklandClubhouse.com (the A's equivalent to InsideTheIvy.com on the Scout.com network). She shared her thoughts of both players in this question-and-answer session.
Can you talk about Robnett's injury last season, a stomach tumor?
He was added to the A's 40-man roster before the start of last season, and he went through major league spring training camp and minor league spring training camp. Toward the end of camp, he started to not feel well I guess. They did some tests and found that he had a benign growth in his stomach that had to be removed. That was done the first week of April and he ended up missing a couple of months.
I think with the surgery, they had to cut a little deeper than they anticipated originally, so he missed more time than they thought he would originally. It was not an injury that should affect his career long-term, but it was something that probably threw off his conditioning and timing for much of last year and kind of got him into a little bit of a funk early in the season.
Was he able to re-strengthen and reposition himself toward the end of the season?
He's really probably one of the strongest guys in all of the minor leagues. He definitely was the strongest guy in the A's system because he's built like a linebacker. He's a big lifter. If you looked at him after the surgery, you probably would think that he was still in great shape, but for a few months he really wasn't able to do as much conditioning in the immediate aftermath of the injury as he would have been able to do normally.
He relies so much on his power. That's such a big part of his game that if he wasn't 100 percent, it probably would have affected him quite a bit. Plus, I just think if you go through spring training ready to go and then all of a sudden you're injured, you're not playing for a while, you have maybe a week or two in extended spring training, and then all of a sudden you're back on the field, I think it's hard to get back into the groove like that, so I think it definitely affected him.
Had he been injured before?
Yeah, in 2006 he broke his hamate bone, so he had to miss a half a season that year. That was two weeks after he first was promoted to Double-A. Other than that, he's had a few little hamstring injuries here and there, but nothing too major.
I've heard some good things about Justin Sellers' defense. What can you tell us about him?
Justin is really, really athletic. He's one of these guys that have terrific hand-eye coordination. He can pick a ball deep in the hole and make a good throw. He's one of these guys that might have a lot of errors because he gets to more balls than most people do, so he's making a lot more difficult plays. Sometimes he tries to make a play that just isn't there. He still has to learn when to put the ball in his back pocket. But he's definitely got above-average range, both at shortstop and second base, and he can really handle both of those positions. He's been very versatile, playing both of those positions a lot and easily has kind of moved into whichever role they needed him in at second base or shortstop.
Does he favor one of those two positions over the other?
In terms of his preference, I think he definitely thinks of himself as a shortstop. That's what he was drafted as; that's where he's primarily played. The A's have a very strong philosophy of, if you're a middle infielder, they want you to play both second and short. He was splitting time with Cliff Pennington, who was the A's first-round pick in 2005. Pennington is also a shortstop and the two of them would kind of flip back and forth between second base and shortstop. I think both of them would probably call themselves shortstops, but both of them can play both positions.
What about his bat? He seems to be a hitter for average. Between him and Robnett, is there a weaker link so to speak?
Robnett's a power hitter. If he's on, he's going to hit a bunch of home runs and drive in runs, but he isn't a guy who is likely to ever hit for average. He still needs to work on his two-strike approach and his approach against left-handers.
Sellers is more of a table-settler kind of guy or maybe a bottom of the order guy that flips the order over to the top. He sees a lot of pitches and has a pretty advanced idea of the strike zone, but he doesn't have a lot of power to speak of. He's wiry, about 5'10 and he's listed as 175 and I think he's probably more about 160. I think where he gets himself in trouble as a hitter is when he's trying to hit home runs and be a player that he's not. But when he's hitting inside himself, he's more of a kind of gap to gap guy, taking an extra base and being aggressive on the base pads.
What about Robnett's defense in the outfield?
He's a pretty good corner outfielder. He's got an average to above-average arm and has decent range. He's also played some centerfield. I think he's probably a little bit too big to be a centerfielder full-time, but if he needed to be thrown out there in a pinch, I think he can do it without being too embarrassing out there. But he's really more of a right fielder at this point in terms of his speed and range and everything.
We can drawn our own comparisons, but is there anyone you can think of to compare to these two?
I think Robnett – and I don't know if I have a direct comparison – is one of those boom-or-bust type guys. I don't think he ever takes a cut that is less than full force. That leaves him vulnerable to breaking pitches. I think over the years he's tried to cut down on strikeouts and he hasn't been able to do that, so I think he'll probably always have those strikeouts on his ledger. But if he can make that work within his whole game, I think he can still add something to a team.
And Sellers, I think he's more athletic than him, but I think he's kind of a utility infielder type. He's a right-handed kind of slap hitter, so he's going to be looking for ways to get on base that's not involving home runs and stuff. He can play second and short. I don't know that Sellers would be an everyday player in the major leagues, but I could certainly see him being a valuable utility guy.