Trayvon Robinson entered 2011 as a very intriguing prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with many considering him a possible replacement if Matt Kemp were traded, but most of his value was tied to his speed as he had always been a basestealer with a little below average pop. But entering 2011, he found himself hitting 7th for the Albuquerque Isotopes rather than his customary spot at the top of the order and, because of the opportunities to drive in runs that were presented to him in that new batting slot, he started approaching the game a little differently and found his power stroke. He eclipsed his previous season high of 17 home runs and pounded 26 round trippers before he was dealt to Seattle in a three-way trade as the last completed deal in the major leagues at the deadline.
A brief three game stay in Tacoma precluded his MLB-debut and homecoming in front of a lot of friends, family and familiar faces in Los Angeles against the Angels, just 40-minutes from the Crenshaw area where Robinson grew up. Upon being promoted to Seattle, he told the Tacoma News Tribune, "I just want to bring excitement and some energy." He certainly managed that as he hit a home run and made a sparkling catch over the left field wall in that first series and flashed a million dollar smile the entire time. But the strikeouts started to pile up on him in September, and he had some lapses defensively as well. Still, the talent level with Robinson is obvious.
A switch-hitter with a lot of athleticism, Robinson brings several potential plus tools to the table with his combination of speed and power. He has enough range to play center, though his arm--which is probably his weakest tool--plays best in left. But Trayvon picked up 14 extra base hits among his 30 safeties in 2011 for Seattle and even showed power the opposite way, which is always encouraging. He only stole one base (in one attempt) and actually only had nine (in 15 attempts) during his minor league season, but he stole 38 or more bases three times in his seven minor league seasons with as many as 47. His strikeout numbers have always been a little high (701 in 671 minor league games), and he struck out 44 times in his final 90 at bats for Seattle, but he also had better-than-average walk rates the last three seasons in the minor leagues.
When the Mariners opened 2011, left field was a fairly open position with not much competition, but through trades, player advancements and position shifts, it is a little murky as the club heads into the planning phases for 2012. On one hand, the Mariners have several in-house candidates for the position, including Robinson, Mike Carp and Casper Wells among others. But at the same time, if the club plans on making big improvements to the offense this offseason, left field is one of the easier positions to fill via trade or free agency. In a perfect world, a return to Triple-A to open 2012 is probably in the best interest for Robinson and the Mariners. There he could play every day and get time in center and in left and work on refining his plate discipline and baserunning in preparation for a second half return to the major leagues. But if the club spends money elsewhere and finds the trade market not to their liking, Robinson's ability to defend and switch-hit make him a natural selection as a fourth outfielder option.
Either way 2012 doesn't figure to be a breakout year for Robinson. He still needs time to fine-tune his considerable talent and work on building himself an identity as a ballplayer while he gets to understand how his toolset will best play at the big league level.
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