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A Concern About Trayvon Robinson

Like pretty much everybody, I was beyond pleased with the return the Mariners got for two months of Erik Bedard. I was underwhelmed when it looked like the M's were getting that catcher, but then the actual trade started to take shape, and it became clear that they were getting a pair of young outfielders with offensive upside. One is enjoying a breakthrough season in double-A, and one is knocking on the door, succeeding just one level below.

Indeed, there are a lot of things to like about Trayvon Robinson. He runs well. He can play center field. He's hit 26 home runs. He can draw a walk. He doesn't turn 24 for another few weeks. Robinson is a tools-laden upper-tier prospect who has actually been translating his tools into numbers, which so few tools-laden prospects can do.

But there is one part of his game that gives me pause. One part of his game that makes it abundantly clear he's no guarantee to succeed at the highest level. It's not his strikeouts - which are high - but it's something very closely related to that. It's his contact.

Robinson saw nearly 1,700 pitches in his first exposure to triple-A baseball. He swung at more than 800 of them. Those swings resulted in a .552 slugging percentage, but at the same time, nearly 300 of those swings missed. Robinson's overall contact rate on the season is just a hair over 65%.

For those of you who might not know, a contact rate of 65% is really low. Miguel Olivo has a contact rate of 66%. Jack Cust had a contact rate of 67%. Carlos Peguero had a contact rate of 64%. And that's in the Major Leagues. Robinson was running a 65% at the next level down.

Out of 440 players at the triple-A level this season, Robinson's contact rate ranks ninth-lowest, ahead of moderately interesting Braves prospect Brandon Hicks, but below guys like Dallas McPherson, Michael Restovich and Chris Carter. Wily Mo Pena checks in at 70%. Peguero checks in at 70%. Robinson was lower than that.

Robinson didn't end up with such a low contact rate because he's a hacker. As mentioned, he does have a decent idea of the strike zone. He wasn't just chasing after everything everywhere all willy-nilly. He's somewhat selective, but still, he was swinging and missing like few others. And if you're running such a low contact rate in triple-A, that doesn't bode particularly well for an introduction to the Majors, where pitchers are more capable of locating their pitches and exploiting one's flaws.

Obviously, this isn't a deal-breaker. This doesn't mean that Trayvon Robinson is going to bust. Intuitively, it seems like players with low contact rates and decent selectivity can be improved more readily than players with low contact rates and poor selectivity, and it's worth considering that Robinson's home park in Albuquerque might have been having some effect. While they took place at lower levels, Robinson didn't swing and miss as often in seasons past.

But this is something to keep an eye on. While I like Robinson a lot as a potential future regular, he has some issues that need to be straightened out, and his contact is first among them. If he can start hitting the ball a little more often, he should make it, and he should succeed. If he can't, then it's gonna be tough.