Who: Clinton Michael Robinson
DOB: 2/16/1985 Jefferson City, Missouri
Acquired: 2007 Draft – 25th round
~ Baseball America #28
~ Royals Prospects: #28
~ Royals Review #33
~ Kevin Goldstein: #NR
~ John Sickels #20 C
Perhaps I’m blinded by the Triple Crown winning season in 2010 or by the career .909 OPS, but I think that if there was no Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas or Wil Myers in the Royals system, Clint Robinson would rate as a key offensive prospect.
I understand the knocks against him – he doesn’t really have a glove that compelled the Royals to fast-track him at any point. He’s very old for a player who hasn’t stepped foot in a Triple A batter’s box yet (26 in a week). A 25th round selection in 2007 out of Troy University in Alabama, all he’s done since becoming a pro is hit, culminating in last season’s Triple Crown in Double A.
Robinson is a big left-handed hitting first baseman who has .230 isolated power for his career and is coming off a season in Northwest Arkansas where he hit .335/.410/.625/1.035. Sure, I know it was in Arvest Ballpark and that the Texas League isn’t exactly the best place to pitch, but a line like that is impressive no matter the conditions around it. It’s not like everybody else put up those numbers.
The scouting report doesn’t like his glove and he’s not really athletic either, but after a couple of seasons in hitting-depressing environments like Burlington and Wilmington, he showed the ability to make contact and increase power for the Naturals. As a professional, Robinson – or the Alabama Hammer, if you prefer – has struck out in just 15.8% of his plate appearances. For a guy who’s capable of blasting 75 extra base hits (as he did in 2010), that’s more than acceptable.
Robinson’s problem is that he wasn’t a very highly regarded prospect to begin with. He had a great season in the Pioneer League as a minor league rookie, hitting 15 homers in 278 plate appearances for the Idaho Falls Chukars. That season, he produced a .336/.388/.593/.981 line. Following it up with a .264/.333/.472/.805 season for Burlington didn’t help him very much, as the Royals didn’t see a reason to push him along so when he improved in batting average and on base percentage but the slugging stayed the same in Wilmington, I can understand how they wouldn’t see a reason to move him up quickly.
After last season, though, Robinson was an easy addition to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He’ll be in spring training with an eye towards continuing his success in Omaha.
The biggest question with Robinson, though, isn’t if he can hit or if his glove can get him to the big leagues. With a first base depth chart stacked with Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and Kila Ka’aihue already, it’s going to be tough to find a place to play Robinson. He can’t play any other positions (he played 1 game in left field, but it was a couple innings of an extra inning game last season and committed an error anyway), and he doesn’t offer speed or even switch-hitting as a bonus attribute. He’s essentially buried within the Royals organization. His best case scenario with Kansas City is for a Ka’aihue trade and a Hosmer move to the outfield – neither of which are likely in the immediate future.
His most likely fate is to be an add-on in a trade at some point, perhaps this season, perhaps next offseason. It’s a good and bad thing – I think Robinson deserves a shot to get to the big leagues, but it’s also difficult to give up a strong young hitter.
But let’s face it. Robinson isn’t going to unseat Hosmer and with Billy Butler‘s recent extension, he’s not going anywhere in the next two years or so at least either. By this time next year, that’ll cover the Royals first base and DH spots, leaving Robinson in the cold. He’s certainly not in the long-term outlook for the Royals, but he could be for many other teams. For the moment, though, he should keep hitting in Omaha, and, if there’s an injury at the big league level, could make his major league debut in 2011 sometime.
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