Being a prospect in the minor leagues isn't easy. Every game is played with a certain, unmentioned tension, as prospects are treated like specimens, placed under a microscope and constantly observed by their opponent's, talent evaluators and the media.
Being a prospect in the Texas Rangers' farm system is especially difficult. Regarded nationally as one of the deepest, most talented organizations in baseball, making a name for yourself to rise above the others is no simple task.
That's exactly the spot that Rangers' third base prospect Drew Robinson finds himself in. A great talent in an organization that's talent knows no bounds.
Of course, this isn't any news to Robinson, who is just happy to play for such a talented organization. He doesn't have the tremendous power that fellow third base prospect Mile Olt has, or the magical, graceful stroke that Jurickson Profar has used to inspire scouts.
He doesn't have Profar's slick glove or Leury Garcia's cannon.
But that certainly doesn't mean that Robinson isn't a good player. In fact, if you took parts of each of those players and threw them into a blender, you'd get a skill set that Robinson tries to have—one of a balanced, complete athlete.
In a Rangers' system that is stocked to the brim with top prospects and spilling over the sides with each passing draft, it gets harder and harder for guys like Robinson to make a name for themselves in the organization.
Hitting majestic home runs or stealing 40 bases in a season are impressive feats that get your name into the media, but Robinson's approach impresses those that matter.
After playing his high school ball at Silverado High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, he was fully intent on going to the University of Nebraska to extend his baseball repertoire, of course, until the Rangers made him the 136th overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Instead of going to the University of Nebraska, Robinson instead decided to sign with the Rangers and get his professional career underway quickly, at the age of 18, a decision that couldn't have made more sense to him.
"I signed with the University of Nebraska, but my real focus was on playing professional baseball," Robinson told Bleacher Report. "I thought that high school guys had more experience than college guys [when signing with an organization]. I really wanted to go out and get some time under my belt."
So instead of going to college, Robinson took his talents to rookie ball, where he quickly proved that he was ready to play professionally by posting a slash line of .286/.406/.357.
Along with his natural talent, I could tell just by speaking on the phone with him that Robinson was on the right path. He knows who he is as a baseball player. He doesn't try to do too much, but makes the most of his "gap to gap, line-drive approach."
"That's exactly what I try to be," Robinson said when asked if he that was the type of hitter he emulated. "Stay in the gaps and up the middle of the field. Stay there."
Through his first professional season in 2010, that approach was working for him, and after destroying rookie ball pitching to begin the 2011 season, the Rangers were impressed enough to promote him to low-A Spokane, amplifying the competition a bit.
Like any change in life, moving up through the minor leagues is an adjustment. After all, Robinson had just figured out that professional baseball was a lot harder than high school baseball.
When asked about the transition from high school baseball to professional ball, Robinson said that his goal was to simply find himself.
"You know, not trying to do too much, and make the game as simple as possible. Guys in high school are throwing 80mph, and when you get [to professional ball], 80mph is the average change-up," he said.
Now, after just one season, Robinson finds himself in a situation where he has to adjust again. Intrigued by just how difficult it could be to adjust to professional baseball after playing in high school, I asked him if moving up through the minor league system was the same challenge.
"It's not too drastic," he replied. "It's just one level. It's a lot different up here, as in, there are more college guys. They rely on their off-speed stuff more and have good control of the fastball. It's a big difference for me up here, and I'm having a little bit of trouble."
Of course, having a bit of trouble adjusting to new pitching is common on any level, and Robinson understands that. In his mind, the only way to keep progressing is to stay confident, and there are many more resources he has in the Rangers' organization than he did with the Silverado SkyHawks.
"You know, I've had a little trouble so far, and staying confident is probably one of the hardest things to do right now. It's a grind, and you can't get too high or too low. You have to stay humble. If you get too high, people humble you quick. I fit in really well."
Of course, rounding all of the aspects of Robinson's character into perspective thus far, it isn't hard to see why he's the type of player that coaches love to have. He plays the game the right way, both between the ears and on the field, and has the talent to make it to the major league.
On the same token, that is the type of player that any team wold like to have, and I was curious as to whether or not the thought of a trade had ever come over Robinson, even though he would have had to be traded as a "player to be named later," since he couldn't be traded at the deadline.
"No, that didn't cross my mind once," he responded, quite emphatically. "I'm down at the bottom of the list. Maybe in a couple of years I'll be considered for something like that."
Of course, Robinson was hoping to be considered for a trade from a talent perspective, something that I could see happening in the near future. If he had his choice though, he wants to make his major league debut as a Texas Ranger and a long, long time in the future, retire as a Texas Ranger.
"I would love to make it [to the major league] with the Texas Rangers. The things we have going on in this organization... It's unbelievable. We have so much talent in this organization, to make it to the major league with them would mean that I outworked and outplayed a lot of great, talented guys to make it to the major league."
Making it to the major leagues with the Rangers would be something that took a lot of time and effort, things that Robinson are ready to give his all for. After all, the Rangers, who are ranked within the top five of every national organization ranking, don't have many levels without top talent.
Outworking and outplaying them would certainly be a feat. With that said, Robinson believes he's in the right organization to do just that.
"We have great guys—from players, to coaches, to developmental people—and they do a great job. Maybe some guys don't have as much talent, but they have the right mindset."
After talking with Robinson, it's clear that having the right mindset is a key for him. Everything from his approach to the game to his approach off the field has helped him develop into an all around solid player.
But having the level of talent the Rangers have, playing with other great players is certainly helping his approach to the game.
"We have so many great players in our organization, position wise, and playing with them makes you way better...makes you want to go out and get something more than the usual day. Playing with those guys just makes you want to play better."
It's the ability to take the good with the bad that has helped Robinson begin to develop into another Rangers' prospect. Becoming a good ball player takes time, and there are experiences that he's yet to master, like riding the bus on long road trips for example.
"You don't get much sleep, and when you do, it's not the best sleep in the world," Robinson said with a laugh, recalling a recent trip to Canada to play. "You have to wake up in the morning, get to the field and be ready to play a couple of hours later, but once the game starts, you just kind of forget about it and go and play the game that you love."
The game that Drew Robinson loves is an intense, heart-driven style of play that he hopes will propel him to the major leagues with the Rangers, just as that style helped push Dustin Pedroia, Chase Utley and Ken Griffey Jr. through crowded farm systems to their respective teams, guys that play the same way that Robinson goes about his business.
He may not be the flashiest name right now, but if you're looking for a prospect who is going to play baseball the way it's supposed to be played, nobody has better tools than third base prospect Drew Robinson.
You can follow Drew on Twitter at @D_Robinson702
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