Name: Connor Robertson
College: Birmingham-Southern College
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Weight: 215 lbs
History: The Oakland Athletics drafted Connor Robertson in the 31st round of the 2004 amateur draft. He had been a reliever at Birmingham-Southern College, an institution that has yet to produce a major leaguer. Understandably, expectations were not particularly high for the sturdy right-hander.
Ever since draft day, Robertson has exceeded those expectations time and time again. For his minor league career, Robertson boasts a 20-9 record and nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings. He even pitched exceptionally well last spring training, fanning 10 batters in only 5.2 innings and recording two saves. In mid-May, Robertson had gone 13 consecutive Triple-A games without allowing an earned run, leading to a 1.93 ERA for the season, and earning him a promotion to the big leagues.
That's when things began to turn south. In his third major league appearance, Robertson got nailed in the right thumb by a comebacker off the bat of Chicago's Pablo Ozuna. He missed two months with the tip of his throwing hand's thumb broken. When he returned, Robertson wasn't the same pitcher, posting a 6.53 ERA the rest of the way in Sacramento.
"It was tough to really get back in the groove," Robertson told FutureBacks.
Robertson was still struggling in Triple-A when another freak injury befell him in early September. He somehow injured his calf while jogging, and Oakland felt that they should play it safe by shutting him down for the little remaining time in the season.
Then in December, Robertson was shocked to learn that he was traded along with Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now fully healthy, he has a chance to re-discover the success he enjoyed prior to his untimely injuries last year.
"I'm excited to be moving to a different organization," said Robertson shortly after the trade. "I enjoyed playing with the A's, but I'm hoping to get a shot with the Diamondbacks."
|Minor League Totals||20||9||2.81||170||24||234.1||199||91||73||8||93||311||1.25|
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
Makeup: A well-built 6-foot-3, Connor Robertson has a frame that would allow him to go two or three innings on back-to-back days if his team needed it. He might be ideally suited to middle or long relief simply based on the fact that Robertson enjoys those roles, and doesn't have any grand ambitions of becoming an ace starter or to break Bobby Thigpen's single season saves record.
"I really like the setup position, because I can get two innings-plus sometimes in a game," Robertson explained. "Middle relief, I think that's a fun part of the game. Especially if you can help get your starter out of a jam, or help another pitcher get out of a jam. That's just a great feeling."
You have to like Robertson's attitude. He knows that he isn't one of the top ten prospects in the Diamondbacks organization. He just wants to help his teammates as much as he can.
Pitches: Robertson uses both a two and four seam fastball, as well as a cutter and a changeup. But his real bread-and-butter pitch is his slider. That had always made Robertson particularly tough on right-handers, but he has improved his secondary offerings to combat lefties.
"When I first signed with the A's, I was just a fastball/slider guy, but they worked with me and worked with me on developing the changeup," Robertson began. "Not until I got to Double-A did I really have to use it. When lefties started getting the better of me, I started throwing the changeup and throwing the cutter. It really helped out. I could come in on lefties. I could throw something soft away as opposed to just throwing fastball and slider."
Despite these improvements, left-handed batters hit .339 against Robertson in Sacramento last year, while righties hit just .247. He clearly still has a little more work to do on his changeup before he can be used non-situationally.
"I feel confident that when I do throw a changeup, that it's really such a shock, that I'm hoping for a good swing and a little ground ball," Robertson said.
Prediction: Robertson certainly isn't the first pitcher to develop a changeup late. Once he perfects that offering, he should thrive in a middle-to-long relief role, though remain tougher on right-handed batters.
Major League Clone: Michael Wuertz
ETA: Robertson's setbacks last season combine with the Diamondbacks' stacked bullpen to prevent him from opening the 2008 season on the 25-man roster. The extra time should help Robertson get back into a groove. We will likely see Robertson at some point during the 2008 season as a fill-in for injured pitchers on the big league staff, or at the very least as a September callup.
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