The year is 2010. "Out there, in the desert. He'll be waiting." And so trekked scouts and crosscheckers, even an executive or two. They knew a couple of the left-handers, Thunderclap Harper and Gobbles Gallo had made a name for themselves outside of The Strip. But to find the other lefty they sought, they'd have to travel further out into the sand. With vultures circling, and water supplies precipitously low, they looked to the sun for guidance. A shaman appeared, dressed like Elvis Presley, and slowly waved his arms in the direction of Silverado High School. It is there, they found Drew Robinson. He was sitting cross-legged, on the left side of home plate, with a bat resting gently across his lap. His hands were silently perched on his knees and his breath was metronome-steady. When the scouts stared at him, he appeared unfazed, eyes closed, shoulders relaxed, posture rigid. At once, someone called his name, "You Drew Robinson?". His eyelids rose at a deliberate pace and a slow smile began to crease his face. "Yes, you've come to see me hit", he said. It wasn't a question.
It's what he does. Overshadowed, somewhat, in his high school career by the aforementioned Nationals slugger, Robinson is comfortable waiting. He waited for some attention from colleges before verbally committing to the Huskers of Nebraska, and he waited for attention from the pros, now he's waiting for some attention from you. Never is the former 4th round pick's patience more visible than in the batters box. In 2013, 21 year-old Drew Robinson drew 72 walks in 122 games. For comparison, that same season, Elvis Andrus led the big league club with 52 walks in 156 games. 2012? Same song, different verse, as Hickory's third baseman, Drew earned 86 free passes in 123 games while Kins and Hambone led the Rangers with 60 walks in 157 and 148 games respectively. The kid's damn name is "Drew", for Pete's sake. "Drew" walks! This stuff writes itself. Need a visual? Okey dokey, settle in for a Robinson plate appearance I tracked in Spring Training. (SPOILER ALERT! After 5 minutes and 47 seconds- he draws a walk)
Drew Robinson March 27, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
Following some mechanical adjustments, Drew had a rock solid second half of 2013 for the Pelicans (.275/.398/.454) and hopes to carry that mojo over to 2014. Likely headed for a spot in Frisco's lineup, the 21 year-old (turning 22 on 4/20) will need to show the ability to drive the ball into the gaps, we all think is there. An improving glove and strong arm at the hot corner give him a well-rounded chance at seeing the diamond in a three-tiered stadium at some point. While not a massive power threat, there's enough pop in the lumber to coax the ball over the fence a few times and there's definitely enough to rifle a bunch of doubles against the left and right center field walls. Drew's a good enough athlete that other positions, including second base and maybe a corner outfield gig can't be ruled out down the road. But he's a third baseman now, and that's cool. (Forgot to ask him my usual inquiry about playing catcher. Kind of tired of getting confused looks when I ask position players if they'd like to volunteer to lunge at Darvish sliders while wearing additional, sweaty equipment in the Texas summers of the future) So without further ado, here's 10 questions for Drew Robinson:
1. What made you choose Nebraska? Obviously, I know you didn't attend, but that place has a far different mojo from Vegas. What made it seem like the right place for you at the time?
I didn't get much attention from colleges coming out of high school so I only ended up visiting a couple schools. I wanted to go to a place with a college town feel; where things were kind of centered around the campus and Nebraska was a lot like that. Plus the facilities were all top-notch.
2. You saw a little time at the keystone in Hickory, but played exclusively at 3B for the Pelicans, how much better of a 3rd baseman are you now, having spent a full season over there? I know you're going to tell me "I'll play wherever they tell me to", which is the right answer, but in a perfect world, you wanna stay at 3rd?
I feel much better about how I play third now rather than how I did when I first started. I'm not a very natural infielder (as you can probably tell), so it took me some time to get used to it, but I'm still a long way from where I want to be as an elite defender. I like a challenge so I'm going to keep working at it until they move me.
3. Gimme some baseball goals for 2014.
--In the field, you will focus on improving what?
I just want to cut down on the mental mistakes. I tend to make mistakes on the routing or easy plays, so I just want to make it easier on myself because those are the mistakes that tend to be the most frustrating.
--In the box, you will focus on improving what?
In the box, I want to be more consistent. I've shown the ability to be a serious threat in the box while being a middle of the order hitter so it's all about being able to be "that guy" on a more consistent basis.
4. Patience is a hallmark of your approach. Was this learned or something you've always excelled at?
I've always been patient in the box, but I never really knew how or why. Throughout 2012 and 2013 I really focused on trying to understand what exactly my approach is. And at times it would get me in trouble because I would let a good pitch to drive go by or swing at a pitcher's pitch late in the count after working a long at-bat, so trying to find that even balance of patience and aggressiveness is key for me.
5. Why so mannnny "nnnnnnnnnnns" in your Twitter hannnnnnnndle? (he's @drewrobinsonnn)
That was the shortest amount of n's available for my twitter handle when I signed up. There must be two other Drew Robinsons out there that are more important than me and already took "drewrobinson" and "drewrobinsonn". Haha!
6. I filmed a plate appearance of yours (I've got to adjust to calling it a plate appearance with you- not an "at-bat" because a walk isn't an at-bat dammit!) last spring, is wearing down a pitcher and seeing his whole repertoire part of the plan, or are you simply looking for something you can put the barrel on?
Seeing the pitchers' repertoire is definitely part of the plan. I like to see how each of their pitches move and what their tendencies are as a pitcher. Especially in spring training or early in the game or season, so when it's more important of an at-bat later in the game or season I'll have a better idea of what's coming.
7. You hit really well in the second half of last year. Other than reverting back to your previous hand position in your setup, were there any other physical/mechanical adjustments you made or was it simply a matter of becoming more comfortable with your surroundings and the game slowing down a bit?
Getting back to my previous setup helped a lot. Trying a different setup really threw me off because I was in the box thinking of my mechanics instead of focusing on my approach. I did a lot of work with (Pelicans hitting coach) Josue Perez and we were able to make some physical and mental adjustments that helped me find my confidence and comfort in the box again.
8. Kids who grow up in Vegas never really go to the Strip, right?
Everyone always asks how "crazy" it is growing up in Vegas, but it's true, I rarely go down and deal with all that nonsense. Ha, sorry to disappoint.
9. Who is the teammate you are most looking forward to seeing in Surprise?
Man, there are too many to name. I have a lot of close friends withing the organization that I'm excited to hangout with and play the game with again. Not gonna lie though, I'm looking forward to watching Prince take some BP.
10. I ask every minor leaguer, if/when you make it to the bigs, tell me the person or people you most want to see in the stands in that big, three tiered stadium.
Of course, my parents. My mom has only seen me play in one live game since high school (and I watched 3 strikes in the one AB I got haha!) so it would be a cool experience for all of us if I could make it up there fast enough so the next game she sees is me playing in The Show.
Every year I write a piece imploring fans of all kinds to pick a prospect to track and make their "guy". It's a lot of fun and as a huge supporter of the minor league experience, I write it in an attempt to give Rangers fans a vested interest in the prospects. Having said that, our esteemed editor, Adam Morris has spent the last two years driving the Drew Robinson bandwagon. Would you please say "hello" here, in print, to Adam?
Sharp kid, huh. **Secret-share: I was most impressed by Drew's ability to make an adjustment mid-season last year. Making adjustments can be super hard, but imperative** As you know the jump to AA can be a canyon, but if anyone is gonna make the canyon leap look smaller, it's a left-handed hitting infielder who treats the batters box as his own personal DMV. Even if the results at the next level aren't instant, no biggie, he's in no rush.
As always, enjoy baseball! Love Ya!
*Special thanks to the fine folks at Beverly Hill Sports Council for facilitating this questionnaire. They rep a bunch of your favorite prospects and have an office on Rodeo Drive, so I imagine they all answer their phones with "Talk to me!"