Tigers Prospect Profile #49: James Robbins

In his first year of full-season baseball, James Robbins put his power on display despite playing in the unfriendly confines of Fifth Third Ballpark for West Michigan. But is there more to Robbins' game besides the power?

James Robbins
Position:First Baseman
Height: 6-0
Weight: 225
Born: 9/20/1990
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Background
Prior to the 2009 draft most scouts considered Robbins all but locked into his scholarship to be a two-way player as a pitcher/first baseman at Washington State. The Tigers did their homework and popped Robbins in the 30th round, inking him to a $235,000 bonus during the summer.

Robbins debuted with a bang in the GCL that summer, hitting .361/.410/.583 with two home runs in just nine games.

The Tigers sent him to short-season Connecticut in 2010 and the 19-year old slugger struggled to make contact against the more advanced pitchers of the NYPL. He finished the summer with a .251 average and only 12 walks against 91 strikeouts in 69 games.

In 2011 Robbins got his first taste of full-season ball with an Opening Day assignment to West Michigan in the Midwest League. He played 129 games for the Whitecaps and managed to slug 16 home runs and 26 doubles among his 123 hits. He again hit .251 for the season, and for the second year in a row he posted an OBP below .300, with few walks and a ton of strikeouts.

Scouting Report
There is plenty of raw power in Robbins' game but the rest of his tools leave scouts wondering if that power will ever come through in higher level games. His batting practice displays are outstanding as he blasts balls out to all parts of the park. He sells out for power and his swing can get too much of an upper-cut to it at times.

Robbins offensive approach is highly aggressive and he lacks the bat control ability to adjust to off-speed pitches and non-strikes. He has far too much swing-and-miss in his game and little in his hitting mechanics to suggest he will develop into a better pure hitter. As he faces more mature pitching it is likely his average will dip into the .230-.240 range and his strikeouts will continue to remain very high.

Defensively Robbins doesn't move that well at first base but he has made some strides since signing. He has a poor body that doesn't help his mobility at all and his understanding of positioning and what his responsibilities are still rough. He has an above-average to plus arm that is hidden at first base.

Robbins is a well below-average runner and without plus instincts he borders on being a base clogger when he does reach base.

Though his power potential is tantalizing, the flaws in the rest of Robbins game are alarming and cause for substantial concern. If he improves his body that may allow him to develop some defensive value at first base but his bat will always carry the burden of his prospect status.

Without a massive step forward in his approach and ability to make contact, Robbins will likely flame out as a mid-minors power hitter, but that raw power alone is enough to keep him on the back of a list like this.

Performance

Level

Team

AB

AVG

2B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

OBP%

SLG%

A

West Mich.

524

.251

26

16

65

158

16

.283

.406


Health Record
Robbins' body is a concern for scouts but he has yet to suffer any significant injuries as a professional.

The Future
Robbins will be among the candidates for the first base job in Lakeland to start next year, but he might have a tough time earning that slot with third round pick Aaron Westlake, NYPL masher Dean Green, and the incumbents Jordan Lennerton and Tony Plagman all vying for the same job.

At 21-years old in 2012, another year in the Midwest League would not put Robbins behind the developmental curve but he would need to rake there to maintain his prospect status while repeating the league.

For Robbins to become a viable big league prospect he will have to hit his way onto the prospect landscape, something that could be a tall order given his swing-and-miss tendencies and aggressive approach.

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