Robinson Making Push for OF Spot

During the offseason the Reds picked up Derrick Robinson after he was designated for assignment when he lost his spot on the Royals 40-man roster. It was more of a signing for depth, but he brings good speed on the basepaths and in centerfield. He's still only 25 years old so the Reds can hope that he'll be a late bloomer and available for a fifth outfielder if needed.

Countdown to opening day: 12 days. The surprising performance of Xavier Paul after he arrived in Cincinnati late last season should be enough to give him the fifth outfield spot on the Reds opening day roster, but newcomer Derrick Robinson isn't give up the competition in spring training. The outfielder has gone 13-35 (.371) since the Royals designated him for assignment to make room for some Rule 5 protections on their 40-man roster. Previously they had selected him in the fourth round of the 06 draft and then offered an $850,000 bonus to sign instead of staying in his hometown of Gainesville, FL and accepting a football scholarship to play cornerback for the Gators.

With an opportunity to play on the gridiron at such a high collegiate level, it's no surprise that Robinson is a good athlete and was clocked at 6.2" in the sixty yard dash. He's put that speed to use in the minors where he's stolen 50 or more bases in five seasons with an overall success rate around 75%. While in the Royals system he was the first recipient of their Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year Award in 2009. Should he end up at Louisville he could team with Billy Hamilton to wreak havoc for opposing batteries in the International League.

Of course the old adage is that "you can't steal first", but recently Robinson hasn't done a bad job finding his way there. Last year at Omaha he hit .268 with an on-base pct. of .344. Power is not in his game and he's slugged only .324 over seven minor league seasons. The Reds would probably prefer a left-handed hitter for their fifth outfielder to compliment right-handed Chris Heisey and Robinson is a switch hitter who fared better against right-handers while in AAA.

In the outfield most of his action has been in center. He was moved to left field last year to make room for a more highly regarded prospect and ended up on the Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award team at the new position. This year he's been back in CF in the Cactus League where he has plenty of range and enough arm to crack 90m mph in drills off the mound. Come regular season Cincinnati will want Hamilton getting regular action in the middle.

Though his was a "depth signing", Robinson is still only 25 years old and the Reds can still hope that he turns out to be a late bloomer. He was slow to move up the KC organization and spent two full seasons at both the high-A and AA levels. The last couple of years he's shown improved plate discipline and increased his walk frequency above 10% of plate appearances to provide a nice .060' AVG/OB differential. He does strike out a lot for a top-lineup hitter (18% of PA), but then again there was a reason the Royals could no longer find a space for him on their 40-man roster.

Of course he's not on the Reds' 40-man either and will probably be on the outside looking in when the team moves north. As impressive as Paul was last season he's no lock to hold onto an active roster spot all year. His .314 average was put up over less than 100 plate appearances and lifetime he's a .259/.305 OB hitter while bouncing around in four different organizations before the age of 28. Also range in center field might have an increased value for the Reds after converting a right fielder to replace Drew Stubbs and Paul has played only ten MLB games at the position. He's earned the trip to Cincinnati come opening day, but Robinson may turn out to be a good pick-up for the Reds if he's unable to sustain his success of last year.

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