Right before the weekend hit, the Baltimore Orioles announced that they had designated 25-year old outfielder Trayvon Robinson for assignment. In Kansas City this is notable as outfield is obviously a position of need at the major league level. RF is still “held down” by Jeff Francouer, but beyond that the organization is also lacking quality options and depth in the upper minors.
To address this, the team signed Xavier Nady (34) and Willy Taveras (31) to minor league deals back in December but neither really bring much to the table that Kansas City didn’t already have in house with younger options – aside from experience of course. Jarrod Dyson is cut from the Taveras cloth while being younger and faster. Nady, at this point in his career, has absolutely nothing on a guy like 27-year old David Lough.
With Wil Myers in Tampa and Dyson profiling as a near-perfect 4th outfielder, Francouer’s replacement isn’t yet on the 40-man roster. Could Robinson be the salve to cure our Frenchy, malady?
Selected by the Dodgers in the 10th round of the 2005 Draft, Trayvon was more athlete than baseball player when he signed – though one with considerable tools and upside. It took him a while to gain traction but he cracked Baseball America’s Dodgers Top-10 prospect list prior to the 2009 season at #9 and nearly held his position heading into 2010 when he was ranked 10th. One of the most encouraging aspects of his resume is the fact that he started to shine when he reached the upper levels of the minors though some of that was aided by playing for LA’s Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque. With Chattanooga (AA) in 2010 Robinson hit 0.300/.404/.438 with 38 SB, 73 BB and 125 SO and followed that up by hitting 0.289/.374/.552 with 26 HR in Triple-A during the 2011 season. He did most of his damage with the Isotopes but was traded to Seattle on July 31st, 2011 in a three team deal that involved the Boston Red Sox acquiring Erik Bedard.
After he was acquired by Seattle, Robinson primarily played in the majors hitting 0.210/.250/.336 in 44 games as a 23-year old. Last season he hit 0.265/.331/.409 in 83 games with Tacoma and 0.221/.294/.324 in 46 games with the Mariners. Between the two stops he hit 22 2B, 4 3B and 12 HR while also stealing 25 bases. His second shot at the majors resulted in lackluster slash stats but he did show significant improvement in his SO/BB going from 61/8 in 2011 to 43/14 in 2012.
Even though it’s been nearly eight years since he was drafted, Trayvon Robinson still profiles as a potential four-tool player with only his arm holding him back. He has plus-plus speed that he’s learning to use on the bases and plays well in the field giving him above average range in center. He has clearly worked hard to hone his approach in recent seasons and though he still has work to do in that regard he can hit for average power from both sides of the plate. Switch hitting is still somewhat new to him since he didn’t take that up until starting his professional career, but his bat speed and other abilities suggest he could still evolve into a solid to above average hitter. He can be overly aggressive at times but has made strides in that regard and at 25 is far from a finished product.
Athlete first players like Robinson typically take longer to develop, and even though he’s had his share of struggles in the major leagues, there’s still a lot to like here. Especially if he can land with a team that believes in him and commits to his development. The Dodgers were definitely one of those teams, but with Matt Kemp solidly entrenched in CF for them, Trayvon was more valuable to as a trade chip. Seattle has had it’s share of difficulties when it comes to developing athletic OF prospects and they were more determined to throw him to the fire in the big leagues than they probably should have been. Baltimore acquired him from Seattle in the November 12th deal that sent Robert Andinoto the Pacific Northwest but he wasn’t around the organization to prove or do much of anything.
Trayvon Robinson’s offensive game would fit very comfortably in Kauffman Stadium and the environment would likely help improve his approach. Since Kauffman is a tough place to hit home runs, he’d be less inclined to slip into an overaggressive state in an attempt to muscle up on the ball. With his speed and improving instincts on the bases he could make a living hitting the ball into the gaps, racking up doubles and triples along the way. The composition of the Royals lineup would also benefit a player like Robinson as there’d be far less pressure for him to produce than there was in Seattle. His best position is LF but he’s more than capable of playing CF which would allow Lorenzo Cain to slide over to right and replace Francouer. A starting outfield of Gordon, Robinson and Cain would lack a power hitting “thumper” but aside from that, would be one of the most athletic and dynamic in all of baseball.
Trayvon Robinson may not be the answer, but claiming him is certainly worth the risk given the potential return.