Next up is the first Canadian on this list, a big right-hander from British Columbia with a bright future that just turned 18 years old…
No. 44: Thomas Robson
Starting pitcher / 18 years old / 6′4″ 205 lbs
Born: June 27, 1993 in Ladner, BC, Canada
Bats: Right Throws: Right
High School: Delta Secondary School (Ladner, BC)
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 4th round (139th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft
Signed For: $325,000 ($136,000 above slot)
Pre-2011 Rank: N/A
- Blue Jays are his favorite baseball team
- His favorite player used to be Roy Halladay — until he was traded to the Phillies — and now it’s Ricky Romero
- A scout told his parents when he was in Grade 9 that he had the talent to make it to the Majors
- Received a scholarship to Central Arizona College prior to signing with the Jays
- Trains over the offseason with James Paxton, a draft pick that didn’t sign with the Jays in 2010 and is now part of the Seattle Mariners organization
- Played for the same B.C. team as Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie
(Engineered) 2011 Langley Blaze stats (including playoffs):
Extra Information and previous experience:
Drafted by the Jays as a 17-year-old out of Delta Secondary School in Ladner, British Columbia, Tom Robson was the top-ranked Canadian in the 2011 Draft and was ranked 72nd among all high schoolers by Baseball America, the highest-ever ranking for a Canadian player. Targeted by Blue Jays local scout Jamie Lehman, Toronto didn’t have the most interest in Robson just because he was Canadian.
Already 6-foot-4 and close to 210 pounds with room to grow, the big-framed Robson boasts a three-pitch mix — fastball (either a four-seam or two-seam), curveball and changeup. His fastballs touch low 90s right now, topping out at 92, but routinely sit at around 89-90 MPH. Though he’d like to eventually develop into a power pitcher as well with higher velocity, Robson is more of a finesse pitcher right now and his plus, low-80s changeup with great movement is his primary off-speed weapon. His sweeping mid-70s curveball has the potential to be a big-league pitch down the road as well.
Being so young with a high ceiling and the likelihood to increase his velocity as he gets older, it’s no wonder that there were a few Major League teams interested in Robson. In addition to the Jays, the Red Sox and Padres were the most interested in signing him, but ultimately the Jays took him in the fourth round as the 139th-overall pick to prevent either San Diego or Boston from scooping him up.
“It’s something I have been thinking about for a long time so there is definitely a sense of relief to it,” Robson told the Delta-Optimist about getting drafted. “You’re aware of all the scouts but you just had to block [them] out of your mind and focus on pitching. I have grown up watching the Blue Jays and I can’t wait to start playing for them.”
Being drafted by the Blue Jays definitely factored into Robson’s decision over the summer during the signing period, but it was an offer from the Red Sox that prolonged the negotiations. Robson’s advisor, Jim Lindell, told his family that discussions would go right up until the August 15 signing deadline, and he was right.
Boston had told Robson that they wanted to take him in a later round but that they’d offer him a substantial signing bonus. With a dollar figure having already been planted, albeit from the team that didn’t end up drafting him, the process between Robson and the Jays went back and forth before they ultimately agreed on a $325,000 bonus, $136,000 above the recommended slot amount.
That figure, according to Robson’s father, was still below what Boston had apparently offered, but the lure of playing for the Blue Jays ultimately prevailed in the end.
“If it was any other team, Tom wouldn’t have signed,” Howard Robson told the Delta-Optimist in August. “He was actually only crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s away from going to college. “But going that route doesn’t guarantee anything and we have seen where it can actually hurt a player’s value. In the end, he gets to play for a team grew up idolizing for the sake of making a little more money.”
Shortly after signing, Robson made his way to the Jays’ spring training complex in Dunedin for instructional league-play, looking to build on his past experiences with the Langley Blaze and Canada’s Junior National team.
Pitching for the Blaze, part of the British Columbia Professional Baseball League, Robson overpowered hitters primarily with his fastball, recording 47 strikeouts in only 28 innings. He got ahead in the count by throwing first-pitch strikes an impressive 75.2% of the time, which helped him either rack up the punchouts or at least get weak contact on a ball that was hit. In fact, he did not allow an extra-base hit all season and issued almost the same amount of walks (12) as he did hits (14).
Having played for Canada’s Junior National squad since 2009, Robson pitched in the World Junior Baseball Championship and Canada Cup in addition to various qualifying tournaments. There he worked with renowned head coach Greg Hamilton on relying less on his fastball and incorporating his off-speed pitches more.
With the Blue Jays, Robson will continue to work on these things as he gets acclimated to professional baseball, but to him, he gained valuable experience playing for his country.
“I’ve become a much better player thanks to the Junior National Team program,” Robson said in an interview with Baseball Canada. “The coaching I received from the program has helped me a great deal.”
Expected 2012 team: Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: No. 4 starter
With such potential and being so young, Robson has the ability to skyrocket up this list in the future and could very well have been ranked higher this year. However, like all drafted players that signed late, he hasn’t seen any action in pro ball yet and hasn’t been tested. Whether or not he manages to increase his fastball velocity and further develop his off-speed pitches are things to keep tabs on.
Right now, though, Robson is an intriguing name, and he’ll be one player in particular that I’ll be excited to see in person next year.