Ask any baseball player and they’ll tell you getting drafted in Major League Baseball is one of their greatest accomplishments. Being drafted by your favorite team is a feeling like no other as we review Detroit Tigers outfielder Jacob Robson.
For Windsor, On. native and Detroit Tigers no.28 prospect Jacob Robson, he’s checked both of those dreams off of his list. Born in London, On. and raised in Windsor, 27-year-old Robson grew up just a short drive away from Comerica Park, naturally rooting for the Detroit Tigers.
The outfielder was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 30th round during the Amateur Draft in 2012, electing to go to college at Mississippi State instead. After playing college ball, the Tigers picked him up in the 8th round, 235th overall in the 2016 draft.
Spending five years in the Tigers farm, the Canadian outfielder played with both the Double-A Erie SeaWolves and Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in 2021.
During his split between Erie and Toledo, Robson slashed .295/.417/.876 putting up 54 runs, 90 hits, knocking in 7 homeruns, 38 RBI and stealing 19 bases. He got the call later that year and made his MLB debut with the Tigers on Aug. 12, 2021, against the Cleveland Guardians
Robson was invited to the Tigers 2022 Spring Training as a non-roster addition and has already made an impact in the outfield that draws question about his role and future with the club.
During the game on March 25th against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Robson replaced Akil Baddoo in left field in the bottom of the 6th inning.
He made an impressive running catch to end the 6th when Blue Jays Danny Jansen lined one out to left field and later in the bottom of the 8th, Blue Jays Tanner Morris’ hard hit ball out to left field proved to be no struggle for Robson either.
So far this spring, Robson has had a solid start to the year slashing .143/.333/.476 with 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI and 1 stolen base in seven at bats.
Looking back at his 2021 season in the minors, Robson still has a high K rate sitting at 36.1% in Toledo and 25.6% in Erie. While he may have the athletics in the outfield, Robson needs tweaking at the plate to lower his strikeout rate and produce runs.
On the flip side, his walk rate is above average, and he can see the ball well. At 16% in Triple-A and 17.1% in Double-A, his aptitude for being able to produce walks makes him a plausible candidate to become a leadoff hitter.
But the “problem” remains: the Tigers have an abundance of outfielders, and not a lot of space to use them all effectively. Namely, you’ve got 23-year-old Akil Baddoo, who also bats left like Robson, likely being the target for leadoff with the Tigers this year, moving veteran Miguel Cabrera a couple of knocks down in the batting order. In 2021, Baddoo had a 9.8% walk rate and 26.5% K rate with 13 homeruns on the season.
If he’s able to show continued success against lefty pitchers this spring, like he did during March 25th with his solo HR in the first inning off Blue Jays southpaw Hyun Jin Ryu, it’s inevitable that A.J. Hinch will use Baddoo as the leadoff replacement (Video via MLB.com).
In 13 at bats this spring, Baddoo knocked 4 R, 6 H, 2 HR, 2 RBI slashing a .462 batting average, with a minor blip in left field during March 25th’s game against the Jays, dropping the ball for a bloop single, a play he likely should have made.
That’s where Robson shows his strength, in his ability to effectively use his speed to make the catches in the outfield. Per scouting reports, his speed is well above average, making him an incredible asset as a defensive tool, as well as a potential threat to steal bases.
To compare, Baddoo’s speed is in the 91st percentile according to Baseball Savant, meaning he’s put in the work to increase his base running ability, and being so young, it’s clear Baddoo made improvements as a base runner with 18 stolen bases in 2021.
Are Robson’s defensive aids enough to solidify a future with the Detroit Tigers?
At 27 years of age, it’s likely we’ll see him get a call up from the minors in June as a fourth outfielder but he’s shown that his hard work and diligence are moving him in a positive direction. Even after the news this morning that Robson is heading down to minor league camp, Robson will have to show impressive versatility to secure himself as part of the Tigers major league plans.