The Netherlands has been able to produce a number of big-league stars such as Xander Bogaerts, Andruw Jones, and Kenley Jansen due to their presence in the Caribbean, controlling territories such as Aruba and Curaçao that have quickly become baseball hot spots. Like most European nations, the Dutch have struggled to produce high end baseball talent from their mainland, with only eleven players stepping foot on a major league field.
The Blue Jays have never shied away from looking for talent in un-common areas, and have found prospects in regions that traditionally lack baseball talent such as Brazil and Europe. This outside of the box thinking may have landed the Jays a gem in 19-year-old Sem Robberse, who hails from the Netherlands and is quickly becoming one of the better arms in their farm system.
Robberse didn’t receive the same kind of exposure that North American and Latino prospects are able to find. The right-hander mainly played in showcases around Europe and because of this lack of exposure, Robberse was one of the last class of 2018 International Free Agents to sign, waiting until June of 2019 to ink his deal.
After dealing Woods-Richardson, the Blue Jays farm system lacks high-end pitching talent. Sem Robberse may be the next big arm to watch out for
The Blue Jays were able to use the extra 1.5 million dollars in their international spending pool that they added via the Kendrys Morales and Dwight Smith Jr.trades to bring the right-hander on board, along with a pair of other prospects.
There was a lot to like about Robberse at the time of the signing. He featured plus command and a wipeout curveball, as well as a projectable fastball that sat in the upper 80’s but was seen as a pitch that would add velocity as the 17 year old grew into his slim 6’0, 160 pound frame.
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After signing, Robberse would head to the United States and begin his professional career in Bluefield, West Virginia. He would shine in his brief pro debut, allowing one earned run and not walking a batter through his 10 ⅓ innings of work. Robberse then returned to the Netherlands to compete in the Dutch Major League during the off-season, which provided him the opportunity to get extra reps against much more experienced competition.
The Dutch hurler flourished against players that were ten years older than him on average, posting a 1.83 ERA along with a very impressive 6.89 K/BB ratio in nine starts. His ability to constantly attack the strike zone against such advanced competition was fantastic to see and gave people within the Jays’ organization a lot of optimism around their new prospect.
Despite not being able to compete in 2020 due to COVID-19 and not receiving an invite to the Blue Jays alternate training site, Robberse has shown an immense amount of development, including a jump in his fastball velocity, going from the upper 80’s to the low 90’s. He has been able to maintain his elite command despite the increase in velocity, which has led to a fantastic season in low A, where Robberse has posted a 3.90 ERA while holding opponents to a .214 batting average and a 1.145 WHIP.
What excites me most about Robberse’s 2021 season is that he has consistently improved over the course of the year. The Dutch product has posted a 3.00 ERA over his last ten starts and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of his last six outings. Thanks to his efforts, Robberse was just promoted to High A, so it will be interesting to see how the youngster is able to handle the transition up to a higher level of play.
With Alek Manoah and Simeon Woods-Richardson out of the farm system, a case can be made that Sem Robberse has the highest upside out of any pitcher in the Jays’ minor league ranks. Robberse has shown that he possesses plus command, and offers a legitimate swing and miss pitch in his curveball.
If he continues to grow into his body and is able to add a quality third offering, the Blue Jays may have found themselves a starting pitcher with top of the rotation upside, thanks to their creative scouting approach.
Despite being at least two more years away from the big leagues, Robberse’s recent performances have intrigued me, and have made him a prospect that I would definitely keep an eye on. I’m excited to continue to watch the right-hander develop and see if he can fulfill his potential, which would be a massive boost to this team down the road.