Righty Duncan Robinson has flashed potential with a plus curve and excellent pitchability, drawing comparisons to another pitcher from Dartmouth in the Cubs system. At the same time, Robinson remains rooted in his game and style of while being able to add and subtract from his arsenal as his changing role dictates.
Robinson was one of the most pleasant surprises in the Cubs system last season. He began the year as reliever in South Bend, but wound up the rotation. He made 15 appearances for the low-A affiliate in the first half of the season, 10 of which starts. A 2.11 ERA in 76.2 IP resulted in a Midwest League All-Star nod and a promotion to Myrtle Beach for the second half.
The 6-foot-6 pitcher adjusted well to the Carolina League but it took a couple of starts. He first gave up five earned runs in his first nine innings before settling down to give up just eight runs in his next eight starts (40.1 IP). Robinson’s 2.81 second half ERA matched up nicely with a 2.87 FIP, showing that his results weren’t rooted in luck.
What’s more, he did not give up a single home run as a Pelican. Paired with a strikeout rate of 6.75 K/9 and a walk rate of 2.74 BB/9, there’s a lot to be hopeful about Robinson in 2018.
6-6, 220 lbs.
Just turned 24 in December
Throws – Right
9th Round Pick out of Dartmouth (2016)
What to Expect for 2018
The key for Robinson is continuing to throw strikes, and not just to maintain those numbers referenced above. Being that Robinson will be two levels from Chicago, it is very important for him to get in some serious innings. After throwing 126 last year, getting to 150 in 2018 would put him on pace a little bit ahead of his fellow Cubs prospects.
Robinson will be competing for a spot at Tennessee in a five-man rotation. That’s a huge change from the six-man staffs at all three Class A stops. The daily routines become essential to maintaining arm strength and avoiding “dead arm,” a problem some Cubs prospects face at AA.
As for future success at AA, Robinson has two big things going for him. First, he’s a pretty smart cookie. The Ivy League pedigree says a bit on its own, but Robinson came across as a very intelligent and pragmatic person when I spoke with him last year. He has enough pitches that he can go with what is working that night and then change it up the next time he faces that team, which is hard for batters to adjust to.
Second, he can adapt easily. He knows who he is as a pitcher and he’s not afraid to change something to improve his lot in the organization. Last year, he added a cutter. I would not be surprised to see him add or alter another pitch this winter to enhance his chances.
With his size and easy delivery, Robinson’s health is not a big question mark moving forward. His ability to locate pitches bodes well, too. I am excited to see how he reacts to the challenges of AA, but it’s important to keep in mind that he usually gets better the longer he is at an affiliate and has time to get a feel for the league and his own approach to it.