Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Who is Derrick Robinson and where did he come from?

On Tuesday, freshly promoted outfielder Derrick Robinson made his first big league start for the Reds. He proceeded to go 1-for-3 with two strikeouts and was replaced in the seventh inning by Chris Heisey as part of a double switch.

The 25-year-old was called up April 5 after Ryan Ludwick was placed on the disabled list, and after spending six seasons in the minors, Robinson is finally getting his chance to show what he can do at the major league level.

But his presence on the Reds roster may have some fans wondering where he came from. So, in an effort to learn more about the team's newest addition, I decided to do a little research on his track record.

Robinson's story for the purpose of this article began in 2005 when he was a junior at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Fla. As a junior, Robinson batted .359 with 48 steals, leading his team to the state regional quarterfinals. He was also named 2nd-team All-State. As a senior, he increased his average to .488, swiped 42 bags, and garnered 1st-team All-State accolades.

Aside from his prowess on the diamond, Robinson also excelled on the gridiron, and was even offered a football scholarship by the University of Florida to play defensive back, but opted to stick with baseball, instead.

In June 2006, Robinson was drafted as a promising, young center fielder in the 4th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. However, he would spend the next six seasons working his way up the minor league system ladder.

In his first year of professional baseball, Robinson played 54 games for the Arizona Rookie League Royals, where he hit .233 with 1 HR, 20 RBI, and 20 SB.

In 2007, the speedster split time between Single-A and Advanced Single-A, combining to hit .248 with 35 stolen bases. Although he boasted an on-base percentage of just .303, Baseball America ranked him as the 11th-best prospect in the Royals organization the following year.

In fact, Baseball America was so impressed with Robinson's physical tools that they dubbed him as the "Best Athlete" in the organization in every season from 2006-10. From 2007-09, Robinson found himself stuck in the same place, which was Single-A ball (Wilmington). His quickness was clearly evident, as he led all Royals minor leaguers in stolen bases in 2007 and 2008, but he continued to struggle with maintaining an satisfactory average and on-base percentage.

In 2010, he experienced a breakout season of sorts, when he hit .286 with a .345 OBP. He tallied career highs in doubles (26), RBI (48), and runs scored (74) to go along with 50 stolen bases. By the beginning of 2012, Robinson had worked his way up to the Triple-A level in Omaha.

By all accounts, Robinson played pretty well last season. The switch-hitter bumped his OBP to .344 while scoring 73 runs and tallying 23 steals. His defense was so good that he even earned the Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award for left field.

In November, to clear room on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, Kansas City essentially released Robinson, and Cincinnati was there to scoop him up a short time later, with an invite to spring training as a non-roster player.

Robinson didn't make the roster out of spring, obviously, but he did play well enough to position himself to be the first in line once Ludwick went down. Barring injury or sub-par performance, Robinson is likely to remain in the big show until Ludwick returns, which is roughly scheduled for around mid-July. That's plenty of time for Robinson to make a name for himself: good or bad.

Will he capitalize on his first opportunity in the major leagues? Let's hope he can. I know I'm certainly rooting for him.

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