Tampa Bay Rays rookie shortstop Daniel Robertson made his major league debut yesterday, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a loss to the New York Yankees. More chances will come, of course; let’s take a look at what he offers.
Robertson was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the compensation round of the 2012 draft from high school in Upland, California. He was traded to the Rays in the January 2015 Ben Zobrist deal, then spent 2016 with Triple-A Durham in the International League.
Robertson ranked 10th on the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 prospects list with the following comment:
10) Daniel Robertson, SS, Grade B-: Age 22, hit .259/.358/.356 with five homers, 58 walks, 100 strikeouts in 436 at-bats in Triple-A; very reliable at shortstop although range is limited; has looked excellent during trials at second base and third base; production was above-average for International League at wRC+110; I have rated him more highly in the past; I still like him a lot but bat hasn’t developed as much as I’d hoped; I may be over-correcting with the B-. ETA 2017.
This spring Robertson hit .268/.349/.286 in 56 at-bats, not spectacular but enough to earn his way onto the roster.
“Not spectacular but enough” is a good description for most aspects of Robertson’s game. He lacks impact power or speed, but he controls the strike zone well and finds his way on base. His range afield is rather mediocre at shortstop but he makes very few errors. The tools fit best at second base and his arm is good enough for third, although he lacks the bat to play regularly at the hot corner.
PECOTA/Baseball Prospectus is a bit more optimistic with the isolated power than the other systems. I think there’s something to that, at least eventually. Players like Robertson who make contact and control the zone well often show more power as they mature.
I haven’t given up hope in his bat but don’t expect a big fantasy impact right away. In the meantime, Robertson’s defensive versatility and on-base skills will keep him in the MLB picture, at least as a utilityman.