(Trayvon Robinson slides into home during a spring training game against the Giants. Photo by Associated Press)
I had a chance to talk today to Lorenzo Bundy, Trayvon Robinson’s Triple-A manager at Albuquerque this season until his trade to the Mariners last weekend. I’ll be using some of it for a Sunday column I’m doing on the new Mariners acquired at the trade deadline, but in light of Robinson’s promotion to the Mariners today (which became official about 15 minutes ago), I decided to give a sneak preview.
I thought Bundy was quite frank in his assessment of Robinson’s pluses and minuses. For instance, I had seen a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law that said Robinson would eventually be relegated to left field because he didn’t have a center-fielder’s arm. Bundy acknowledged Robinson had a below-average arm, but didn’t think it would necessarily preclude him from playing center field. He had been playing Robinson mostly in left with Albuquerque because the Dodgers were looking for left-field production. Bundy thought he had made a nice adjustment.
“One of the last things I texted him about was to continue our long-toss program,” Bundy said. “His arm has gotten better. It’s a tad below average. We’ve worked on other things, like charging the ball. Lenny Dykstra played center field for a long time and he couldn’t throw. There have been others. Obviously, it will be something he still needs to work on. He’s not shy as far as work habits. He gets after it….Obviously, with his bat and with his speed, you take away the below-average arm, he can go get a baseball.”
Bundy also addressed head-on Robinson’s contact issues, and I didn’t even have to bring up this eye-opening statistic from Lookout Landing about Robinson’s excessively low contact rate.
“He was playing very well here,” Bundy said. “Obviously, the one column as far as stats go was his strikeout total (122 in 368 at-bats for Albuquerque). This is his first year in Triple-A. He’s improved every year with the Dodger organization. He was probably hitting .295 when he left here (actually, .293). His splits home and away were very similar. Just last homestand, he went over the home-run total he had on the road. Before that, it was exactly even. I know a lot of times, people talk about playing here in Albuquerque in the high altitude, but he was holding his own pretty well.
“I look at strikeouts as much as everyone else. I don’t think they ever go away. There’s only one guy I know where they went away, and that was Barry Bonds. You know how special a player he was. If you look at some of the guys with high strikeout totals in the minors, when they get to the big leagues and face better pitching, it’s not going to go away. The question is, what’s going to happen when he does put the ball in play? With Tray, heck, when he hit the ball, he was hitting .440. He did damage when he put the ball in play.
“We had numerous conversations about trying to put the ball in play with two strikes. His walks, from April to June and July, started improving. We were seeing improvement as far as his command of the strike zone. It’s going to be interesting. I’m real excited to see how he does. He’s improved every year in our organization. If someone had told us before this year he’d have 26 homers in Triple-A, I don’t think a lot of people would have believed that. Obviously, we were looking at a combination of power and speed. He only had nine bags (stolen bases; actually, it was eight), which was down from his total the last couple of years (Robinson stole 47 in 2009, and 38 in 2010). He was starting to drive the ball and do other things. I still think that needs to be a big part of his game, being able to steal a bag when his club needs it.”
Bundy also discussed Robinson’s personality and makeup. He’ll turn 24 in September.
“He’s a fun kid,” he said. “This clubhouse is a nice mixture of young and old. Obviously, a lot of the young are gone, with Dee Gordon (now up with the Dodgers) and Tray gone. He was right in the middle of most of the clubhouse stuff going on, as far as taking heat from older guys, knowing when to be quiet and when to say something. He’s serious about his job. He takes his ABs serious. I’ve seen some maturity as far as growing up. From what I’ve heard of him in the past, sometimes he’d be losing his temper about a particular at-bat. He’s starting to grow up and become a man.”
I asked Bundy, bottom line, to project what he expected from Robinson in the future.
“He’s a tough read,” he replied. “A lot of people want to know is he ready now, or not ready. I’ve been fortunate to be in player development for a long time, and I’ve had lots of guys who have gone on to the major leagues and All-Star Games. He’s a tough guy to put your finger on as far as what he’s going to be. That’s because of that one column, the strikeout column.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he did really well. Then again, if things didn’t go well the first time, that wouldn’t surprise me, either. You can’t prepare for big-league pitching in the minors, because you can’t duplicate it. You’re not facing the quality pitching you see at the major-league level day in and day out. We know about games speeding up in the majors.
“That’s the fun thing about baseball. Let’s see what he’s got.”
For Trayvon Robinson, the fun starts tonight in Anaheim.