Name: David Robertson
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: April 9, 1985
"It went well," Robertson said of his first professional season. "I couldn't have asked for anything better. I put a lot of good outings together and it showed."
Dominating the South Atlantic League with a 0.77 ERA in 24 appearances for the Riverdogs before going 3-1 with a 1.08 ERA with the Tampa Yankees, he looked just as comfortable in Double-A, striking out nine batters in his only two regular season outings with the Trenton Thunder.
"Actually it was," he said if it was surprising moving up three levels in one season. "I didn't think I was going to end up in Double-A at the end of the year. I was thinking I would be able to spend the second-half the season in Tampa, that's what I was expecting.
"It was a blast being up there [in Trenton]. The level change is huge when you go from A-ball to Double-A. It was just an honor getting to go up there with guys of that caliber and getting to win a ring."
He entered the organization with the reputation as a power arm, allegedly able to hit the mid-90's pretty consistently and one who would walk a few batters, and he was anything but that with the Yankees this past season.
"I'd say at the end of this year I was sitting anywhere from 90-93," he revealed. "In college I'd say I was about the same but every now and then I'd throw one up in the mid-90's.
"I've become a lot more controlled in my windup and really working on throwing strikes, making my pitches end up where I want them to. I'd say I was throwing maybe a little harder in college but I was a lot wilder."
Walking more than four and half batters per nine innings in his two years with the Crimson Tide, he cut that down to three and half in his first professional season.
And reportedly throwing as high as 96 MPH in college, he wasn't hitting such velocity marks with the Yankees - although his fastball was just as effective.
"The kid's got good stuff. He overmatched guys here [in the South Atlantic League]," said Charleston pitching coach Carlos Reyes. "He's got a very late, explosive fastball. It's not the 95-96 MPH fastball supposedly he had, but it's an 89-91 MPH fastball that looks like it's 94-95 MPH. Hitters can not catch up to it.
"He's deceiving, his windup, his mechanics, everything he does is deceiving, so it makes it very hard for hitters to pick it up. Any fastball up in the zone, hitters see it, their swing gets long, and they can't catch up to it. But his fastball has a little giddy-up at the end there. It just has that explosiveness at the end."
A reputed power arm throwing mostly fastballs with wild tendencies, he proved to be much more of command pitcher who would mix up three big league pitches and use a deceptive delivery to keep hitters off-balance.
"It's nothing really on purpose," he said of his deceptive delivery. "Sometimes when I throw my fastballs I'll get a little cut at the end with some action, a little movement. That helps a lot. I just throw like I've always thrown and I guess it comes out that way."
Throwing a slider in Spring Training, the Yankees had him shelve that this season in favor of a curveball to go along with his changeup, a pitch that came a long way in 2007.
"Definitely throwing the changeup," he said of the biggest stride he made this year. "This was the first year that I've really thrown it a lot and using it in a lot of big counts and big situations to get ground balls and get outs. That was probably the biggest help."
Despite being a later round pick, he has proven to be quite polished overall with the numbers he posted and with the accelerated rate with which he has moved through the minor leagues already.
"He's hard to see from these hitters and he's got some life and his ball cuts," said Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. "Velocity is velocity and it got better. So the velocity got better, he's hard to see, he's got life on his fastball, he's got a curveball and he's got a changeup - so he might be for real."
Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball. Robertson throws mostly four-seam fastballs in the 89-93 MPH range with very good movement. His fastball command improved as his delivery became more fluid with the changes the Yankees made to his delivery. He gets natural cutting action with his fastball where it tails a bit at the end, giving it late life and explosiveness, and giving the batters the appearance it is quicker than it actually is.
Other Pitches. The Yankees had him scrap his slider in favor of the curveball and it became a plus pitch for him with great diving action. It was his primary strikeout pitch this past season. He's able to get a lot of swings-and-misses with it as he bounces it in the dirt but he still has some work to do commanding it inside the strike zone for a called strike. He does have a tendency to leave it up in the zone too often when he tries to be too fine with his location. He made huge improvements with his changeup and it's a good weapon for him against lefties, getting them to pound it into the ground.
Pitching. Robertson uses a deceptive delivery and great movement with his pitches to keep opposing batters off-balance and guessing at the plate. He works very quickly on the mound, aiding his ability to keep hitters uncomfortable. He is very confident in his ability and pitches with a carefree and relaxed approach. Adept at keeping his pitch counts low and pitching to contact when the need arises, Robertson is also very good at finishing off batters. He could afford to put on a little more weight and gain some strength, which could perhaps increase his velocity a tick or two but more importantly, he will be able to stay sharper at the end of the season.
Projection. Stuff-wise and style-wise, Robertson is an relief version of Ian Kennedy in that he uses good command, deception, and baseball intellect to keep hitters off-balance. Body-wise they are pretty similar as well. Robertson doesn't command his fastball quite as well as Kennedy just yet, although it's close, and he needs to improve throwing his curveball inside the zone for called strikes to make that next step in his development. He projects as a big league middle reliever perfect for the sixth and seventh innings, but his stuff could possibly play better than that as a late-inning reliever should he make further adjustments to his fastball and breaking ball command.
ETA. 2009. Robertson isn't likely to pitch at three different levels again in 2008, although it's not entirely out of the question. He should begin the season right where he left off - in Double-A - and a mid-season promotion to Scranton is likely. He should be big league ready at some point the following year.