photo: Kramer Robertson (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)
by The Cardinal Nation staff
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Link to Robertson’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2017 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: High (click here to review scales)
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (30): During the community vote, shortstop Kramer Robertson finished as the 30th highest rated player and the top-ranked prospect out of the 2017 draft. He finished just behind a slew of other infielders in Delvin Perez, Edmundo Sosa, Tommy Edman, and Darren Seferina, who all rounded out the voting in the 20’s and are yet to come in this countdown. 14NyquisT began voting for Robertson first at #23.
There was not a lot of discussion about Robertson during the community vote as he is relatively new to the organization and with a .270/.351/.367/.719 stat-line, didn’t have the gaudy numbers in his first season to distinguish himself from other prospects. Wiley did comment that Robertson never looked out of place despite being put right into full season A-ball at Peoria. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (31): In the fourth round of this past summer’s draft, the Cardinals took one of the most iconic college players available – LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson.
The son of Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey was a light-hitting second baseman in his first two years with the Tigers due to Alex Bregman at short. As Robertson filled the large hole left by Bregman a year later, the Waco, Texas native took a huge leap forward as a junior, hitting .331 while playing a serviceable shortstop.
Robertson was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 32nd round of the 2016 draft but opted to return to LSU for his senior campaign, when he became the unequivocal leader of the College World Series team. Not only was he a key cog, but he was a defensive stalwart (his nine errors totaled Bregman’s in 2015) and an integral leadoff man at the dish.
“What has endeared him to me is the ‘It’ factor,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “He rises up and makes great plays and gets big hits for you, a very passionate player.
“As far as how his tools grade out I don’t know what the pro organizations are saying about that. But I know somebody will give him a chance.”
And the Cardinals saw something – a solid senior and obvious money-saving pick. Robertson has baseball skills to boot.
“He wasn’t someone who came out like gangbusters his freshman year,” Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores told the media following day two of the draft. “He has persevered through one questioning his ability. You always ask yourself, can someone handle adversity? Often, when we draft players, the first time they handle it is once they experience failure in the big leagues, or the minor leagues, when they’re away from their family, and we were certain that this young man had faced adversity in his career and come out better for it.”
The Cardinals ultimately signed him for a $150,000 bonus and assigned him to low-A Peoria to start off his professional career. Robertson slashed .270/.351/.367 with three homers and 13 RBI in 54 games. The 23-year old flashed a polished approach against some advanced arms with a 36-to-21 strikeout to walk count over 215 at-bats in the Midwest League.
Robertson also swiped 10 bags in 14 chances while being a mainstay at shortstop for the Chiefs en route to the Midwest League playoffs.
“Offensively, he has really good hand-eye coordination and innate ability to make contact,” Peoria manager Chris Swauger said. “Pretty solid approach; good plate discipline. He’s a very mature hitter coming out of college. He flashed some power and an ability to take a base every now and then. He was actually a pretty instinctive baserunner, so he did a lot of good things at the top of our order.
“Defensively, he’s got very good hands and moves around pretty well, especially lateral quickness is a good thing even if he’s not a super-fast top-end speed guy. He moves around very well. When he’s got a chance to really let it go, he’s got some above-average arm strength. He’s a little guy, but he’s able to generate some pretty good velocity on his throws.”
From a scouting perspective, Robertson has athletic bloodlines on both sides of his family and has raised his game as a hitter over the last year. It’s an open question whether or not he stays at short or moves over to second base, where he is equally adept. Defense was his best attribute in college with the range to hold down short, but with a below-average arm.
Offensively, Robertson is a high-contact hitter with an excellent feel of the strike zone and has the ability to pepper the ball with line drives from gap to gap. He also has excellent intangibles and profiles as a second baseman/utility infielder.
His overall profile is similar to Tommy Edman.
“When he came to us, he was a pretty experienced and mature player,” Swauger said. “He did little adjustments here and there, and he got better. He was definitely an asset for us.”
Robertson should open next year at high-A Palm Beach.
Brian Walton (32): The dynamics of the draft have changed in recent years with the bonus pool concept and the strategies behind saving money with some picks in rounds 1-10. The primary reason is to conserve cash, which can be redeployed in one of two ways – on high bonus-demand selections in the first 10 rounds or on lower signing odds, higher upside players in the low-to-mid teens rounds.
In 2017, the Cardinals executed this plan to add additional money to their war chest, which was used to go over allocation to sign six players: Zack Jackson (6th round), Chase Pinder (7th), Wilberto Rivera (8th), Evan Mendoza (11th), Donivan Williams (14th) and Terry Fuller (15th).
The number of St. Louis top-ten round picks signing below slot was equivalent to the quantity who received as much or more than recommended, four each. Of those under-slot signees, the Cardinals saved more money on Robertson than any other draftee, with a spread of almost $275,000. Robertson’s reported signing bonus was $150,000 against the slot value of $424,800 for the 124th overall selection.
When evaluating a pick like this, one has to consider both the talent of the player and the financial strategy in the draft of the selecting team. For example, Robertson may not have been the 124th-best prospect on the Cardinals’ board, but he fit their desires at that point of the draft.
I went through all of this to set up my admission that I did not initially fully get behind Robertson as a top prospect. In addition to the financials as documented above, his collegiate results were mixed at a standout LSU program – not anything eye-popping.
Once Robertson was signed, the decision to start him in the Midwest League did catch my attention, as it did not occur with any other position player in the Cardinals draft class of 2017. Still, I wanted to see results.
The numbers did not come initially. Over his first 100 plate appearances in July, Robertson was clearly having trouble adapting to professional pitching, as the line below indicates.
With multiple data points that were not positive, I did not place Robertson among the system’s top 50 prospects in my final monthly regular season update, posted in early August (member article).
With more information and more time, however, I can readily admit that Robertson does warrant prospect consideration. The right-handed hitter looked like a totally different player at the plate over his second month as a professional, in August.
Obviously, we will have to see what Robertson shows the Cardinals coaches in the spring to determine exactly where he fits in 2018. In a vacuum, I tend to agree that the starting shortstop berth at Palm Beach looks possible. Then again, there are other players at the position to consider.
Edmundo Sosa and Tommy Edman may be slotted for Springfield. The Cardinals have two trade acquisitions who should again be in the Palm Beach mix in Jose Alexander Martinez (Tony Cruz deal) and Rayder Ascanio (Mike Leake trade). There appears to be less competition at second base, so a position change could be in the offing for someone.
Robertson’s extensive college experience at second may be called upon again, but even if so, a change would not have to be permanent. For example, Edman has continued to play both second and short and Sosa has added time at second in the last year, likely increasing their future value.
Robertson receives a Scouting Grade of “4 High”. The numeric assessment reflects a potential future ceiling as an impact bench player, with “High” suggesting significant work remains ahead for him to achieve it. It is the same score other 2017 Cardinals early-drafted position player collegians – Scott Hurst and Chase Pinder – received in this countdown.
Our 2018 top 50 series continues
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