Thursday, November 29, 2012

Clint Robinson

After starring at Northview High School in Dothan, Alabama, Clint Robinson moved on to Troy University. He was injured in his 2006 junior year, costing him a shot in that season's draft. Robinson took off in his senior campaign, hitting .364 with 17 HR and earning All-America honors. During his four years with the Trojans, he set team records for games played, at-bats, runs scored, hits, total bases, and even hit-by-pitches.

With all that, the Royals didn't draft the then 22 year old until the 25th round of the 2007 draft, signing him for $1,000.

He was assigned to Idaho Falls of the rookie Pioneer League, and put up a slash of .336/.383/.563 with 15 homers and 66 RBI in 67 games. Robinson took home the Pioneer League MVP, and earned Postseason All-Star and Idaho Falls Player of the Year honors.

In 2008, the "Alabama Slammer" went to Class A Burlington in the Midwest League, where he returned to earth. He hit .264, though he still banged 17 HR. A dead pull hitter in college, he began to work on using the whole field.

Robinson moved up to the next level in 2009, to High A Wilmington in the Carlina League. He hit .298 as his all-fields approach began to pay off and he won the Carolina batting race, beating out Lynchburg's Matt Hague though his long balls dropped to 13. Robinson took home that season's Mike Sweeney Award, given to the player that best represented the Royals organization both on and off the field

The big lefty really broke out in 2010, when he won the Class AA Texas League Triple Crown with NW Arkansas. He hit .335 with 29 HR and 98 RBI, and led the league in doubles (41), total bases (298), slugging percentage (.625) and OPS (1.035). Robinson put together a franchise record 21 game hitting streak, and practically ran the board for awards: he was named a Texas League mid and post-season All-Star, Player of the Month twice and Player of the week three times.

The big enchilada evaded him, though. The Texas League MVP went to teammate Mike Moustakas, who had a .347 BA, 21 HR and 76 RBI before being promoted to AAA Omaha. That became a way of life in the KC organization for Robinson, who could never escape the shadow of the highly touted prospects the Royals had seeded throughout their deep farm system.

In 2011, he continued his step-at-a-time progression and was promoted to Omaha in the Pacific Coast league. Robinson kept on hitting with a line of .326/.399/.533 with 23 HR, 35 doubles and 100 RBI. He was named to the PCL mid and post-season All-Star teams.

But all that got him was a chance to tread water with the Storm Chasers again in 2012; the Royals had Eric Hosmer at first base and Billy Butler DH'ing, and they pretty effectively blocked Robinson. The 27-year-old hit .292 with 37 doubles, 13 home runs, 67 RBI and 70 runs scored in 131 games, and again was All-PCL. He got a brief call to the show, getting four at-bats as a pinch hitter for the big club.

In truth, even with those numbers, he did slip some. He put together his worst batting average since 2008 and tied his career low in bombs with 13 home runs. And he's in the Billy Butler mold at first base, which means hitting a baseball is much less a challenge to him than catching one. In scout-talk, he's not very athletic; not many 6'5", 250 pound guys are.

Clint Robinson was clearly a man in need of new scenery, and KC set him free when they DFA'ed him on the 20th and packaged him to the Bucs. The Royals signed former As first baseman Kila Ka'aihue to a minor league deal to replace him as their insurance policy.

As Aaron Gleeman of NBC Sport's Hardball Talk wrote "As a 27-year-old first baseman Robinson was never going to get a chance in Kansas City behind Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, but he’s consistently crushed minor-league pitching and offers 20-homer power with good strike zone control. Robinson hit .309 with a .396 on-base percentage and .493 slugging percentage in two seasons at Triple-A, so it’s nice to see him go somewhere he might actually get an opportunity."

Robinson has a .308/.382/.520 batting line over six seasons in the minors and clearly can wave his wand. But he turns 28 in February, and no one really knows if he's a true big league hitter or a AAAA stick. It's hard to tell, with no MLB sampling to speak off. He does have a great eye - he averaged 71 K and 46 walks per season - and pounded out 30 doubles and 18 homers per year in the minors. But he's always been old for the levels he played at, and never cracked the Royal's Top Twenty prospect list.

From what we've seen, his discipline should translate into decent offensive production given some regular at-bats in the show. Our concern is with his glove; his tool kit points to DH'ing, and he was traded to the wrong league if that holds true. But the Bucs are looking for someone to push Garrett Jones, and it won't take much leather to do that, but a lot of lumber. And that's what Clint Robinson brings to the table.

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