Position: First Baseman
Robbins was a highly recruited two-way player coming out of Shorecrest High School (WA), with a firm commitment to Washington State University as both a first baseman and a pitcher.
The Tigers popped Robbins in the 30th round of the 2009 draft on the hope that they may be able to pry him away from his college commitment. A reported $235,000 signing bonus was enough to convince Robbins to turn pro and start his career as a Tiger.
After signing at the August deadline, Robbins reported to Lakeland and made his professional debut with the GCL Tigers. In nine games, Robbins punished GCL pitching, to the tune of a .361/.410/.583 line. James debuted with a bang, ripping three hits in six at-bats against the Braves GCL affiliate, including his first professional home run. Robbins followed that debut up with two hits – including another home run – in his second contest, en route to a five-game hitting streak to start his career.
The Tigers invited Robbins to the Fall Instructional League in Lakeland to continue his development and acclimation to the professional game. Robbins played well in spurts during the fall league, though there were times where he showed just how raw he actually is.
Though the Tigers have had Robbins throws at least a handful of bullpen sessions since signing, there is little interest in having him work on the mound as a pro. As a pitcher, he has featured a fastball that can peak at 90 mph and a curveball that flashes as solid-average.
Offensively, most scouts see a more promising player. Robbins has natural strength and he takes a big hack at pitches in his zone. Some scouts actually believe Robbins will need to tone down his aggressive swing against more advanced pitchers. He can rip fastballs to all fields with ease, and he shows plus power to the pull side. Professional caliber curveballs gave Robbins some trouble in the FIL, but he has shown an ability to stay back on off-speed pitches, and try to take them where they are pitched.
Despite his stocky frame, Robbins shows solid athleticism and good actions around the bag at first. He has a chance to be a solid defender with a strong arm. As with many players that have stocky frames coming out of high school, many observers believe Robbins will have to work hard to stay in top shape, and feel that he could stand to tighten his body with a professional workout routine.
Robbins has good makeup and he remains grounded despite his blazing hot pro debut. There is still a good amount of rawness to Robbins offensive game, but he shows promise with power, patience, and contact ability.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% R
Robbins career has not been long enough to establish an injury history. The standard caveats apply here that apply to most thickly built 19-year olds. There is no reason to believe Robbins won't work hard to refine his body and develop physically.
Robbins will enter his first professional spring training with a chance to compete for an Opening Day assignment to West Michigan. With Rawley Bishop a near lock for the ‘Caps roster, and Robbins having less than 40 professional plate appearances, he may be destined for extended spring training to start the year.
Robbins has the offensive ceiling to be an above-average first baseman, with a solid defensive profile as well. While last year's small sample may give rise to high expectations, any views of Robbins should be tempered with the knowledge that he has several years of development ahead of him, and there really isn't a current timetable for his arrival in Detroit.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.