Mauricio Robles’ AAA Debut
M’s prospect Mauricio Robles made his first AAA start this afternoon at Cheney Stadium. The hard-throwing lefty was acquired from Detroit along with Luke French in the Jarrod Washburn deal last year. He’s a converted
catcher outfielder (thanks JY!), so it’s perhaps not surprising that his command and polish aren’t quite at AAA levels just yet. His fastball is MLB-quality, however, and he used it to dominate the Round Rock line-up for 4 innings today. Of course, baseball games are considerably longer than 4 innings, and he was completely out of sorts in a painful 5th inning that saw him give up 5 runs. Still, his first four innings were as dominant as anything I’ve seen from Pineda this year.
After yielding a single to the lead-off man, Robles retired the next ten hitters in order, with 6 strike-outs, a pop-up and 3 weak grounders. This prompted Rainiers’ play-by-play man Mike Curto to comment, “Let’s try this out, just to see…. Happy Mauricio Robles day?” As if shrinking from the implied comparison, Robles almost immediately lost his command. He got through the 4th without allowing a run, but picked up an injury tagging out Brian Bogusevic in a run-down. In the 5th, he looked absolutely lost. He walked 3 in the inning, including a bases-loaded walk to OF Jack Shuck. He grooved a fastball to the next hitter, Collin DeLome, who promptly hit it out to right field for a grand slam. He was having trouble with his release point (he threw a pitch 3 feet over the next hitter’s head; it was so wild it couldn’t be interpreted as a purpose-pitch) and his mechanics, and lost some velocity as well.
His FB started in the 96 MPH range, and sat around 94 through the fourth. In the 5th, it was more often 93 with a number of 92s, all without any semblance of control. Our fearless leader Dave Cameron mentioned that he thinks Robles is destined for the bullpen, and today’s outing would seem to support that view. And yet…for 3+ innings, he was dominant. It’s easy to find excuses or mitigating circumstances ranging from the general (converted catcher! Not used to pacing himself!) to the specific (he was injured immediately before he lost the strike zone), but it’s time for him to show that he doesn’t need them anymore. His stuff is good enough, though his change wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be. Until he makes that leap, though, he’s a confounding prospect – moving from unhittable to unwatchable from game to game or inning to inning. Still, on balance I was impressed with Robles, and terrible 5th inning aside, I’m excited about his promise.
Pictures below the fold.