What counts, ultimately, isn’t his .400 batting average and 1.221 OPS, including three home runs, in only nine games at Triple A Toledo.
What matters is if Jacob Robson has enough mettle as a 5-foot-10, 175-pound, left-handed batter to seriously qualify for work at Comerica Park.
There are questions, important questions, as the Tigers ponder Robson and what is becoming a second consecutive full season of blowing away projections held for an eighth-round draft pick who scarcely more than two years ago was playing outfield at Mississippi State.
Robson, who went to high school in Windsor, was ordered to Toledo two weeks ago after he had done in 67 games at Double A Erie what he has shown since the Tigers drafted him. He hit .286, with an .832 OPS and seven home runs.
And, of course, a 23-year-old speedster who can play center field or either corner post has continued to mash the ball with the Mud Hens: 12 hits and three homers in his first seven games.
He also has been making better contact – four strikeouts in his first nine games versus 78 in those 67 at Erie.
Do the Tigers have a fourth outfielder evolving? Or, is this a regular who simply is buffing skills as he plays his way to Detroit?
“I don’t think anyone expected him to take off the way he did at Triple A,” said Dave Littlefield, the Tigers vice president of player development. “We like him as a player. He’s done a nice job since we got him. He’s probably stayed under the radar more than some of the bigger-name prospects, but that doesn’t make what he’s done any less impressive.”
Again, the question: Does he have big-league tools?
“He’s a plus defender and a plus runner who can play all three outfield spots,” Littlefield said. “He’s a good athlete. The profile, when you look at him, is that of a leadoff hitter, a center-field type. He’s a very good bunter, as well, who can bunt for hits.”
There are sore spots, beginning with 242 strikeouts in 243 minor-league games.
“The contact rate is always the concern for a player who needs to be an on-base guy,” Littlefield said. “He’s still a work in progress. But it’s a good sign he’s hitting as well as he is. He’s showing that some guys take off and go with it (promotions).
“We’ll see if it lasts.”
The stats say he’s on track at Toledo, as he was at Erie, and at all of the Single A stops in Detroit’s farm galaxy. He has a .300 batting average in the 25 months since the Tigers signed him. His OPS is .810.
“He’s moved very quickly, so this is no gift,” Littlefield said, speaking of Robson’s ticket to Toledo. “This is a guy who’s played well – he’s a good player. One of the interesting things about this job, you look at players and evaluate them along the way, and most of the time people don’t achieve what you hope they might, and on occasion a guy goes beyond what you might have thought.
“Time will tell.”
Matt Hall always was a starter. And then the Tigers thought his future might be in the bullpen.
Now, he’s back in the rotation, which seems to be the place for Hall, a curveball maestro at Erie who’s Saturday night game was in line with his recent work: six innings, four hits, no runs, 10 strikeouts, one walk.
In his last 10 games, Hall has an 0.28 ERA, with 42 strikeouts, six walks, and 14 hits in 32.2 innings.
A sixth-round draft grab out of Missouri State has one of the highest spin-rates of any pitcher in professional baseball. But it’s his set-up pitches, and their ability to hang in the strike zone, that have been the difference.
“Generally the key with most pitchers is fastball command, and he’s really started to improve it,” Littlefield said. “He’s got the good curveball, of course, with that real high spin-rate, and he’s started to use his change-up more. Against left-handers, he used it quite a few times (Saturday) night.”
Hall has pitched in 356.1 innings since the Tigers signed him. He has 385 strikeouts. His ERA is 2.45, his WHIP is 1.25, and opponents are batting .225 against him, which is a good deal higher than the .165 handcuffs he’s applied to hitters this season.
The issue earlier was always walks – too many of them. But in his last eight games, Hall has walked but two batters. His fastball runs 89-90, which gets it done, particularly when left-handers tend to be easier on radar-guns than right-handers.
The Tigers now say Hall will stick as a starter. Down the road, plans could change. But for now, he’s back in the rotation after working 23 games in Erie’s bullpen.
“We’ve kicked around some of those questions,” Littlefield said, speaking of the Tigers’ organizational conversations. “But as well as he’s throwing now, using three pitches, and understanding about commanding his fastball, we’ve got to start him. He’s made some nice adjustments. He deserves the credit.”
The Tigers are beyond happy with second-round pick, Parker Meadows, a left-handed hitter and outfielder who was drafted in June out of Grayson High in Loganville, Ga.
Meadows was batting .286, with a home run, in his first three games for the Gulf Coast League West Tigers.
And then he got hurt.
Fortunately for Meadows and for the Tigers, it’s a mild hamstring strain.
“Down here, it’s hot,” Littlefield said, speaking of the Tigers’ minor-league hatchery at Lakeland, Fla. “And these younger guys, as much as you tell them, they get dehydrated. He (Meadows) was running in on a ball and tweaked a hamstring.
“But he’s doing fine. As it goes with some of these injuries, you’ve just got to get them healed.
"It’s a new experience for them, being taxed at this level.”