Scouting Rangers Prospect #38: Drew Robinson

Although third baseman Drew Robinson struggled with short-season Spokane last summer, he impressed the Rangers with strong performances at extended spring training and instructs. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 19-year-old prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Drew Robinson
Position: Third Base
DOB: April 20, 1992
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 185
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2010 Amateur Draft, 4th round

Drew Robinson put himself on the Rangers' prospect map shortly after being selected as a fourth-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Playing with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers in his debut summer, the Las Vegas-area high school product posted a .286/.406/.357 slash line while showing a mature approach at the plate.

As Robinson was coming out of Silverado High School in Vegas, the primary question wasn't with his bat, but rather where he would play defensively. The high school shortstop saw action all around the diamond in his 44-game debut––first base, second base, third base, shortstop and even some left field.

The Rangers chose to put Robinson at third base in spring training last year, and he remained there through the entire season.

Robinson stayed in Arizona after his first camp and played at extended spring training. He shined as arguably the club's best hitter before suffering a broken thumb in early May. Robinson injured his thumb while fielding a ground ball during a Brandon Webb rehab start.

The 19-year-old prospect was sidelined for the remainder of extended spring and didn't make his return until the Arizona League campaign began in late June. He came back strong in the short stint with the rookie club, playing in six games and going 9-for-18 with two doubles, a home run and six walks.

The excellent start earned Robinson a quick promotion to short-season Spokane. For the first time in his young professional career, Robinson began to struggle. A slow start with the Indians seemed to snowball into a summer-long slump.

After playing in 45 games with Spokane, Robinson never got into much of a groove. He finished the short season with only 24 hits in 147 at-bats––a .163/.266/.265 slash line.

Rangers' roving hitting coordinator Luis Ortiz––who focuses on the organization's lower levels––felt that much of Robinson's issues in the Northwest League were mental.

"We try to pinpoint one thing, but it's never one thing," Ortiz said. "I think it was just a combination of things. I think you go and have that confidence high of having this great extended spring and preparing to go to Spokane. Then he gets hurt. He was out for a few weeks.

"Now, with little time to get ready, he's sent to Spokane. He's very talented, so he put a lot of pressure on himself when he got there. He felt he probably needed to carry the big load of the team. I think he just tried too hard. He just got deeper and deeper into that hole, and it was harder for him to get out of it."

One disappointing aspect of Robinson's first full season was that he didn't play well when the numbers are documented––during the official regular season. But the left-handed hitter excelled in extended spring, and he continued to do so during fall instructional league following the regular season.

Ortiz says that Robinson was able to relax and get back into a groove at instructs.

"At instructs, it was just going back to the basics and going back to what got him successful," he said. "We wanted to make it so it was more about the automatic, simple movement. He was trying to fix his swing by swinging harder. I said, ‘No, let's go back to making contact, to hitting the ball to all fields, and to managing the strike zone a lot better.'

"And then the talent showed up again. It's just trying to get that young mind to settle down so he can go and develop his potential. He just expected too much out of himself, tried too hard, and tried to come back to his full form right from the beginning."

The approach of staying patient and hitting the ball to all fields was a big part of what made Robinson so successful with the Surprise Rangers in 2010. Ortiz believes Robinson will find his comfort zone when he begins doing that with more consistency.

"He's a very good hitter, and I think we need to have him define himself," said the hitting coach. "He can hit it a long way, and he might think he's a power guy or something to that extent. But he's just a complete hitter. He's a guy that has to stay gap-to-gap, and once in awhile, he's going to get his pitch and he's going to hit it a long way."

With a line-drive stroke and some present strength, Robinson has the ability to hit quite a few doubles while knocking the occasional home run. But Ortiz says the youngster also has the ability to develop a plus hit tool––and that should be the focus for now.

"His game is going to be a lot of doubles, a lot of RBIs and hitting for a high average," he said. "When he hits home runs, it's not going to be like some of the other guys––something a bigger guy would do––but he has the potential to do it. But that's not the kind of hitter he is."

Like many young prospects, Robinson must develop by learning and improving from his failures. Although he let the early struggles snowball on him in Spokane, he was able to take a step back and relax at instructs.

"I think he didn't handle (the transition to Spokane) as well as he probably could have," Ortiz said. "But you can see the talent. There's no doubt that this kid has some kind of potential."

Prospect Video:

Drew Robinson 2011 reel (best viewed in full screen and HD).

Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 8, 2011)
Tweeting Rangers Instructs (October 2, 2011)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Luis Ortiz (November 6, 2011)
Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)

Batting and Power: When on top of his game, Robinson keeps his hands inside of the ball and uses the whole field with a line-drive stroke––an overall mature approach with a decent eye for the strike zone. He flashes some present gap-to-gap power and has the strength to knock the occasional home run. The lefty hitter projects for about average power, but it's his hit tool–-which shows solid-average to plus potential at times––that's most intriguing.

Robinson fell out of his natural approach when he struggled last summer. He was overly pull-happy and, as Ortiz explains in the above feature, was often swinging too hard. At instructs following the regular season, he went back to using the whole field, and his natural power showed up in game situations. Robinson had an impressive power surge late in instructs.

Base Running and Speed: Robinson is a good athlete and an average runner. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus timed him at a consistent 4.3 seconds from home to first base during spring training 2011––a 50-grade (average) time. Robinson probably won't steal a ton of bases, but he should reach double digits––if not in the 15-20 steal range––on a consistent basis.

Defense: Although he has passable tools at third base, Robinson is a raw defender. He appeared visibly frustrated at times in the field with Spokane, perhaps letting his offensive struggles carry over into the field. The 19-year-old also must learn to find comfortable positioning at the hot corner, as he often set himself up to get bad hops. The end result was 12 errors in 45 games with Spokane––a .910 fielding percentage.

With decent athleticism, range and solid-average arm strength, Robinson occasionally shows the ability to make difficult plays both during games and in workouts. But he's inconsistent and doesn't always make the routine play. Robinson could ultimately become an average defender at third, but he certainly has work to do.

Projection: Some in the Rangers' organization have compared Robinson's ultimate ceiling to that of Tampa Bay's ultra-versatile Ben Zobrist. It's important to keep in mind that's an ultimate upside comparison, but Robinson does have a similar raw skill set both offensively and defensively. During his young professional career, Robinson has seen time at first base, second base, third base, shortstop and left field. While he's strictly a third baseman for the time being, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him begin moving around the diamond again at some point to build his versatility. It'll also depend on how much (or perhaps how little) Robinson develops as a defender at third base in the coming years.

2012 Outlook: Robinson has a chance to win the third base job at Single-A Hickory with a strong performance in spring training. Though he had obvious issues with Spokane last summer, he righted the ship by playing well at instructs and was previously dominant in extended spring. Last year's Hickory third baseman, Christian Villanueva, will almost definitely begin the year in Myrtle Beach, leaving a spot open for the taking this spring. If Robinson is assigned to Hickory, he should spend the entire season with the Crawdads.

ETA: 2014.

2010 AZL Rangers (RK) .286 140 6 0 11 26 6/9 26 41 .406 .357
2011 AZL Rangers (RK) .500 18 2 1 5 9 4/5 6 4 .640 .778
Spokane (SSA) .163 147 6 3 25 18 3/4 22 46 .266 .265

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