We knew that Justin Smoak was going down, and that Mike Carp was coming up. We didn't know which other player was coming up, until earlier today when we heard it's Trayvon Robinson. Trayvon Robinson will now forever be remembered as the player who replaced Ichiro Suzuki on the Mariners' roster, although more likely he will not be remembered for that, not even a few weeks from now.
Robinson's almost certainly up here on a temporary basis, just waiting for Franklin Gutierrez to recover, or for something else to happen. Consensus seems to be that Robinson is a lot less interesting than he was a year ago when the Mariners first got him, and of course all anybody really wants to think about now is Ichiro, still Ichiro. I don't know why I'm writing a post about Trayvon Robinson instead of Ichiro, but as long as I'm already this deep I might as well finish.
Robinson was talented when the Mariners acquired him in the Erik Bedard deal, and he'd been posting big numbers in triple-A Albuquerque, which is something you need at least two arms and two eyes to do. Over 416 trips to the plate, he'd swatted 26 dingers, albeit with a weird nine doubles and six triples. That was from a 23-year-old technically capable of manning center. The big problem was that Robinson swung and missed too often. Last year, his triple-A strikeout rate was 30 percent. His triple-A contact rate was 65 percent. Miguel Olivo has a career 68-percent contact rate, in the majors. With good power and the ability to catch. Robinson clearly needed to improve.
He wound up getting considerable time with the Mariners, striking out in 39 percent of his plate appearances and making contact with 66 percent of his swings. Unsurprisingly, Robinson was exposed, as he just wasn't ready to deal with the best pitching on the planet.
Robinson's big goal for 2012 should've been to cut down on his strikeouts. More precisely, to sharpen his eye and find consistency in his swing. Trayvon Robinson with all the whiffs isn't a big-league player; Trayvon Robinson with fewer whiffs could be. What has Robinson managed?
His Tacoma strikeout rate is down to 22 percent. His Tacoma contact rate is up to 74 percent. Those aren't good marks - both are worse than average - but they're far better marks. Based on those numbers, Robinson's plate discipline has taken a marked step forward. Which he badly needed. He needs to be better still, but this can't all happen overnight.
Of course, Robinson's also posted a .740 OPS. He's not a good enough defensive outfielder for that to be adequate. He's hitting grounders like he did in the low minors, robbing him of some of his power. Robinson isn't where he needs to be, but he is at least showing signs of change, which is better than standing still. Odds are he won't make enough of the right changes, but he could. He'll be 25 in a matter of weeks.
I don't think people really think about Trayvon Robinson anymore. Last offseason, I don't think people really thought about Michael Saunders anymore. Usually, when a player slips from the fans' consciousness, he never really returns. But he can. It hasn't never happened.