I decided to postpone the post on comparing the two rosters (last year and this year) and instead take a look at what the scouts had to say over the past few years about the two prospects we received in exchange for Michael Wuertz. Taking a look at the Baseball America Prospect Handbook and the John Sickels Prospect Handbook over the past three years, I found the following for Richie Robnett:
2006 – “I was VERY high on Richie Robnett entering the 2005 season, comparing the ’04 first round pick out of Fresno State to a cross between Jimmy Wynn and Kirby Puckett. His season was OK but ultimately a disappointment. The good news: he showed a lot of raw power, with 30 doubles and 20 homers implying that he should show plenty of pop at higher levels. The bad news: he struck out way too much, didn’t work the count as effectively as he did in college, and was too tentative on the bases. His OPS came out at 6 percent worse than California League average. Robnett is very toolsy but raw compared with many of his fellow college guys. He does have good defensive tools, including plus range and a strong arm. I am still very intrigued with his tools, but his skills were less developed than I had hoped. GRADE – C+” ~ John Sickels
“Robnett received the top bonus ($1.325M) of any A’s 2004 draftees and also got an invite to big league camp, but his first full prop season was a mixed bad as he racked up 40 more strikeouts than hits. He was slowed early by a hamstring problem that kept him from getting into a rhythm. He made some adjustments in the second half, leading to 14 homeruns in his last 60 games. Robnett offers one of the best packages of tools among Oakland farmhands. Compact and muscular, he has tremendous bat speed and above-average power, but needs to make more contact and work the count better to take advantage of it. He has the athleticism to play center field and the arm for right, but he still needs work at both positions because of bad jumps and poor routes. He’s an above-average runner, though he already lost a step since college. The A’s were happy with the improvement Robnett made during instructional league and believe he’s close to breaking through. He’ll likely return to high Class A in 2006.” ~ Baseball America
2007 – “Robnett has the physical tools, but it hasn’t quite come together for him. He makes and attempt to work the count, but he simply swings and misses too often. His approach isn’t very subtle, as he swings hard trying to put charges into balls that he should try hitting the other way. He’ll kill a mistake pitch, but unless he becomes more selective he won’t see enough of them at higher levels. Robnett has lost some speed since college, cutting down his effectiveness as both a runner and fielder. His overall tools are still intriguing, but he has to make progress in 2007 or risk getting buried. GRADE C” ~ John Sickels
“Scouts outside the A’s organization frequently put Robnett at the top of their follow lists because his tools stand out in the system. Those tools got him picked in the first round in 2004 out of Fresno State and earned him a $1.325 million signing bonus. While he has athletic ability and still runs well, Robnett’s best tool is his raw power. He’s short but stocky and strong, quick to the ball and able to hit balls out of any ballpark. Harnessing his power remains a concern though, because he lacks pitch recognition and strikes out too much. The rest of his tools don’t play of to their grades because he’s so raw, even after two full seasons. He has the speed to play centerfield and a slightly above-average arm would play in right but he doesn’t project as an above-average defender due to inconsistent routes and other fundamentals. A broken hamate bone in 2006 didn’t help matters, and he struggled in a brief stint in the Mexican Pacific League. Robnett is headed to Double-A Midland, likely in center field, flanked by prospects Travis Buck, Myron Leslie and Danny Putnam.” ~ Baseball America
2008 – “Robnett’s name surfaces frequently during trade talks, as other clubs obviously value his wide base of skills. The Dodgers we unsuccessful in signing Robnett out of high school as a 32nd-rounder in 2002, and he increased his stock at Fresno State, going in the first round to the A’s for $1.325 million two years later. Robnett’s best tool is his huge raw power. He’s not tall, but stocky and strong, and his quick hands and powerful forearms produce enough juice to leave any ballpark. He’s a good athlete who runs well, but will be limited to a corner outfield spot because of suspect routes and poor reads and jumps. He has above average arm strength, and right field is the best fit. He still swings and misses too much, for a variety of reasons: lack of pitch recognition, lack of patience and poor two strike approach are key contributors. After being added to the 40-man roster, Robnett will head to big league camp this spring with an outside chance to make the club, but Triple A seems a more likely destination.” ~ Baseball America
Conclusion – The common theme here seems to be that Robnett is a very raw hitter that needs to cut down on strikeouts and harness the power he has. To me, as I was reading those reports and comparing them to a current Major League player, my mind kept flashing to Adam Dunn. I could be way off, but that was who he reminded me of. From a prospect standpoint, he reminds me a little of Brian Dopirak, who was always highly touted in our system, but never lived up to the hype. I’m hoping for the Dunn comparison.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at Justin Sellers. While you’re waiting, be sure to head over to John Sickel’s website and pick up the latest edition of the Prospect Handbook as well as to Baseball America and pick of their handbook.