Name: Dan Robertson
DOB: September 30, 1985
Selected out of Oregon State in the 2008 draft, Robertson was originally headed to Peoria to play for the Arizona Rookie League Padres. A phone call while he was on his way told him to return to the Oregon area – he was headed to Eugene for his professional debut. It was the right call – but no one knew it at the time.
"He just had unbelievable, phenomenal year for a guy who's not – just because of his size everybody goes, ‘Well …' and who knows? What's he going to do in 162 games with that small body? But we'll get a chance to find that out," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said.
The lowly drafted outfielder simply went on to hit .377 in the Northwest League, establishing a new league record with 114 hits. He collected 21 doubles, three triples, three homers, 59 runs scored and 45 RBI across a 73-game season. He also drew 34 walks compared to 34 strikeouts for a .443 on-base percentage and swiped 20 bags in 27 attempts.
Robertson led the Northwest League in hitting, hits, on-base percentage and runs scored. He placed second in RBIs, third in stolen bases, tied for third in doubles, and fifth in slugging percentage (.497). As expected, he was named the Northwest League MVP.
"I really like how Dan Robertson plays," teammate Blake Tekotte said. "He's exciting to watch and a smart player. He plays hard and hustles all the time; he's looking for that extra base every time. He's a great competitor."
MadFriars.com Hitter of the Year honors followed a terrific season – the first time in history a short-season player has earned the award.
His 68.2 wRC (Runs Created based off weighted on base average) was 20 more than the next closest hitter in the Northwest League. His 24.5 wRAA (Runs Above Average based off weighted on base average) was more than 10 above the next closest hitter – teammate Sawyer Carroll. His wOBA of .422 also topped the circuit.
It was domination from start to finish for the outfielder. He had 38 multi-hit games, batted .407 with runners on base, swatted .390 off lefties and .373 off righties. There was little he didn't do.
"You have to love this kid and his desire to attack," Riddoch said.
"Robertson just had a magic year," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He's a gamer, sparkplug and was the MVP of the league. His game needs very little maintenance; he's short to the ball, understands the zone, tracks balls well and has a good arm. There are just so many things in his game to like."
Everything Robertson does begins with his hard-working mentality. He works hard during batting practice, fielding drills, and everything leading up to the game so his intensity level doesn't have to go through ebb and flow changes to be ready for the game. Game time is all the time.
"We talked about his swing the first part of the season when I first saw him and he took it from there," Eugene hitting coach Eric Peyton said. "He just took it from there, started understanding what we call staying inside the baseball more. He really learned how to take advantage of that, and he started gaining his confidence from there and he just took off. So it was the first time I talked to a player and pretty much he just felt good with what he wanted to change and then it just kind of started working for him right from the start. He said he got more power out of it. It's just really learning how to use the legs more."
The outfielder has a clean and easy swing, separates his hands well in setting up to swing and drives through the ball. His swing plane is level and his bat is afforded maximum exposure inside the zone – giving him a decisive advantage in hitting any pitch around the strike zone.
Robertson drives the ball well to all parts of the field, going with a pitch on the outside corner or getting his hands inside to pull a pitch down the left field line when the ball sails across the inner half. He doesn't try and do too much with any given pitch and excels at squaring it up.
Line drives are his forte, giving him gap power out of his 5-foot-8 frame. He can drive balls out of the yard but profiles best as a doubles machine that hits to right and left of center.
A sparkplug offensively, Robertson has a good feel for the strike zone and doesn't offer at pitches that would have him chasing. He also understands his role – either out of the leadoff spot seeing pitches or in the two-hole as a catalyst to make something happen.
While all the attention was focused on his hitting ability, Robertson is also a stellar defensive player. He can man all three outfield positions and man each of them well. He tracks balls well off the bat, is just as comfortable coming in on a ball as going out to snare one over his head and will sacrifice his body to make a play. He also has a great arm that can play comfortably in each spot.
"He was the best outfielder in the league defensively," Riddoch said. "He's maybe one of the best defensive center fielders I've seen in a long time. This guy can really play – I bet he had about five or six, those all spread out, stretched out dive catches? He had two or three catches running into the wall, jumping up against the wall and catching it, coming down and firing the guy out from taking the next base.
"He plays all three outfield spots above-average, has an above-average arm, especially for his size, and is accurate, he's smart, knows how to play the game, knows how to steal a base. I mean just go on and on and on about this kid, but I'm sure people stay away from him because he's 5-foot-9."
The California native is slightly above average in the speed department. What makes him better is his ability to use it effectively. His mental aptitude in the running game is apparent. He reads a pitcher well and takes an extra bag on any sleeping defender. His knowledge of outfield play also helps him gain an extra bag – as he understands what throws are hard for a fellow outfielder to make.
"It's funny: we played this, at the end of the year after we spent our fine money on extra dinners and stuff like that for everybody, we had 180 bucks left in the fine kitty and so we chose up teams: pick four pitchers, and those four pitchers got to pick a regular player and then they had to pick a pitcher and then they had to pick a regular player until we had four complete teams," Riddoch began. "And the last couple of the days of the season we had batting practice: team one played team two, we threw the batting practice and the coaches judged whether it was a base hit or not and a double or drove a run in or an out and we played three-inning games.
"Team 1 played team 2, they went in the field and the other two teams came in and played and then the two winners played for the championship and then the championship team got the 180 dollars out of the fine kitty to split amongst them.
"But his team got eliminated before the championship game and he was so mad and wouldn't even talk! I was on him like smell on a skunk, because he's one of those guys: he just does not accept anything but the best. And he was MAD! And this is a stupid BP!
"That's what drives him: is that, just like Tony Gwynn. I've used Tony and Freddie, two of my favorite kids as examples.
"Freddie McGriff being 6-foot-6 and chiseled, he was probably 6-foot-3 in junior high school, but when he approached the game because of his God-given ability, you know, he would run the race to win the race. So, if he was running a 100-yard dash and he got to the 75 yard point and he looked back and he was 10-feet ahead of everybody, he'd just put it in cruise control and take the trophy home because he had this unbelievable God-given talent. Which is OK, but he never really figured out what it's like to push to the end. Because he's been the best at 75%, what reason would there be to tax yourself any further?
"Now, Anthony plays the game in the same scenario: he would run a 100-yard dash and ask what his time was and then go back to the beginning and try to beat his own time. That's the way he's put together: he is milking every ounce out of average ability to be an All-Star where Freddie's doing it at 75% and still achieving the same goals. Freddie has never pushed himself beyond, so what reason would there be when you're the All-Star first baseman? Why should I do anymore? And they're both great people, but it's just a different approach to it and that's what Daniel is.
"Daniel's similar to what Gwynn is: he's playing against himself all the time instead of just the other team. He's trying to beat his own personal best every day. That's why the kid got signed. People saw that. I absolutely love having him. He broke all the records in the league. And you know the record he broke was a 1972 record where they played 80 games! We only played 76 and after 76 he played in 72. So he broke an 80-game record that's been there since 1972, and with a lot less games than that record was set at. Aw, it was great. I think he could go to the California league, I recommended that he go play center field up there in California league and do a good job next year."
Conclusion: Robertson's game is advanced in every facet. He understands small ball, plays with all-out hustle, and is demanding of himself and his teammates. Seeing him skip a level would not be a surprise.
As a 33rd-round pick, he might find himself having to prove himself at each step, but the Padres are thrilled with his approach and attitude. They will afford him every opportunity to succeed. If Robertson takes the same approach and gives the same dedication to plying his trade as in year one, Robertson is one of the steals of the century.
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