Name: Dan Robertson
DOB: September 30, 1985
Selected out of Oregon State in the 33rd-round of 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.
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 RBI, third in stolen bases, tied for third in doubles, and fifth in slugging percentage (.497). As expected, he was named the Northwest League MVP.
MadFriars.com Hitter of the Year honors followed a terrific season – the first time in our history that a short-season player had 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.
Robertson got off to a slow start in 2009 with the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The outfielder hit .204 in his first month of action but proved his 2008 was no fluke by hitting .310 the rest of the way, upping his average to .296 for the season. Robertson notched 31 extra-base hits, scored 78 runs and added 65 RBI. He also notched a 50-to-51 walk-to-strikeout ratio for a .380 on-base percentage.
As clutch as they come, he hit .317 with runners in scoring position to lead the team in RBI while spending most of his time hitting from first to third and sometimes ninth in the lineup. He also scored six runs during the TinCaps drive towards a Midwest League championship.
"He led the team in RBIs and probably was at the top for games played for us too," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio hitting coach Tom Tornicasa said. "He did a real nice job. He can hit. He's got a little bit more power than people think. I know he only hit like five home runs and didn't really hit any towards the end, but he's got a little bit of juice, and he's always hitting the ball hard somewhere and always battling at the plate. I thought he had a real good year. He ended up hitting .290-ish."
The Oregon State alumnus had a 22-game on-base streak and placed fourth in the league in lowest amount of total plate appearances per strikeout, whiffing once every 9.86 plate appearances.
"Just a simple blue-collar type of player; hustles his butt off on defense, offense, line drive type hitter," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said. "I don't know how many home runs he ended hitting up. He could surprise you here and there, but that's not his game. His game is to get on base, get around the bases, score a run."
The outfielder has a very clean approach and foundation at the dish. He minimizes his movements throughout his swing to eliminate variance. By not altering his bat head, his path through the zone remains consistent. It is a simple motion for him to get into his load and explode forward. His head is rarely drawn off the ball and is held in place throughout his swing.
Robertson covers both sides of the plate well. He is not prone to pulling off a pitch and sits back and waits for an off-speed pitch to develop. It gives him plus pitch recognition skills.
The 5-foot-8 dynamo uses the entire field as his playground, taking pitches on the outer half the other way and pulling inside offerings. He takes what he is given and plays small ball well. He understands situational hitting: moving runners over, getting them in from third with less than two outs, bat control. His ability to move the ball around the diamond and play smart earns him praise and gives him that National League feel.
"He is one of those guys that every manager wants on his team because he can do so many things," roving infield fielding instructor Gary Jones said. "He can hit for average, move the runner over, hit the ball into the gaps and run into one every now and then. He has a very good feel for what needs to be done at the plate and works very hard."
He has a level swing that is conducive to line drives. His clean approach, however, also allows him to create backspin and send balls into the gaps and over the fence. Robertson's hand-eye coordination give him a natural affinity towards making hard contact.
Robertson is a patient hitter that is always looking for a pitch to drive. He is not afraid to hit behind in the count, knowing that a pitcher still needs to make a pitch to get him out.
He will, occasionally, get upset at striking out but doesn't take that into the field or next at-bat. He uses that knowledge to his advantage and his focus and drive become that much more intense.
There are times when he gets excited and will look for pitches to hit early in the count, deviating from his normal plan. Those can cause some dry spells before he realizes his mistake. When that happens he will overbalance on his front side and lose the ability to make hard contact.
"He understands hitting very well," Tornicasa said. "He can get a little jumpy sometimes, but overall his mechanics and hitting ability are pretty good."
Robertson is a tick above average in the running department. With a sharp feel for running the base paths, he uses his wits to steal bases. He swiped 20 bags in 30 attempts this past season and can be counted on to contribute roughly the same amount each year. He understands pitchers' moves and gets solid jumps. His all-out hustle is reminiscent to Lenny Dykstra.
Defensively, Robertson is outstanding in all phases. He has played all three positions and played them well. There are few who have his toolset in the outfield – he tracks balls off the bat well, gets accurate jumps, does not take extra steps, fields the ball off the wall and can race down balls hit over his head. He has plus range and also posseses a plus arm that is accurate.
"A very good defensive player, can play in all three positions," Dascenzo said. "A very, very accurate arm, solid average strength in it. Made a lot of key throws, will throw runners out at various bases.
"A spark plug kind of like (Drew) Cumberland and (Cole) Figeuroa."
"Defensively, he can play all three outfield positions and has a very good arm," Jones said. "I think he is a guy that is going to play a long time."
He also has outstanding makeup. He is one of the hardest workers on the field at any given time. His dedication, work habits, and good spirits rub off on his teammates, as he is one of those rare players that makes those around him better. His easygoing persona knows when to turn it up a notch when the lights come on.
Conclusion: Robertson will always be an underdog of sorts. His plus defensive skills alone, however, make him a fourth outfielder candidate at the major league level. As he continues to hit, however, the doubters will go away. He has natural ability that can't be taught and the elements of a strong hitting foundation not prone to long slumps. He has the right mindset and knack for making something happen in crucial situations. If he can continue to hit, Robertson could be around the game for a long time.
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