No. 39: James Robbins, 1B
James Robbins was drafted out of Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, WA, in the 30th round of the 2009 draft. He signed for an over-slot bonus, and made a 9 game cameo that season with the Rookie League GCL Tigers, where he posted a small sample size OPS of .994. Through the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons, Robbins has risen steadily at a level per year, finishing the 2012 season in Class Advanced A-Lakeland, where he posted a .677 OPS over the course of nearly 500 plate appearances, accumulating an alarmingly high 171 strikeouts and only 37 walks. Robbins' profile is based almost entirely upon a single part of his game, as we'll see in the scouting report...
Robbins' game is based almost entirely upon his plus to plus-plus raw power. He has a ton of swing and miss in his game, as evidenced by his consistently high strikeout totals throughout his minor league career. I was able to catch Robbins in action during the 2011 season at Class A-West Michigan, and while his profile may have changed slightly since then, I don't think any changes would be that significant as to make my notes from then irrelevant. Robbins has a long swing that causes him to have trouble with plus velocity, and he lacks the pitch recognition skills to successfully lay off breaking balls outside of the strike zone. However, in that long swing is a ton of raw power, so much so that at the time I put a 65 grade on it (although now with more experience, I'd probably grade it at 60). He generates good loft, but the problem, and we've seen this before with other guys, is that his hitting ability isn't advanced enough to allow his power to play in game situations very well. He's not a very good first baseman, but he's adequate enough there to where he's not an obvious black hole defensively. At 6'0", he's pretty small for the position, but I say that with the Tigers having a sub-6 footer playing 1B in the big leagues now. He was a pitcher in high school, and I've read reports of him actually having decent potential as a pitcher, but obviously the Tigers chose to go the position player path with him. So, as a former pitcher, he has the arm strength to make all the throws from 1B and then some.
Robbins projects as a left-handed power bat off the bench in the major leagues. He lacks the hitting ability/projection for him to profile as an everyday first baseman, but I could definitely see him getting a shot in the big leagues as maybe a platoon DH or bench bat. I expect that he'll head to Class Double A-Erie in 2013, where I'm thinking he will play the majority of the time at 1B, with fellow left-handed power hitter Dean Green (who you will meet later) getting the majority of the playing time at DH, although they could be interchangeable depending the day (Robbins is the superior fielder). If Robbins' current career path continues, he should be ready for some time in the major leagues during the 2015 season, assuming he gets that far.