Hillsboro Hops' Kristian Robinson ranked 93rd-best prospect
He's 6-foot-3, has a tantalizing combination of speed, power and bat-to-ball skills, looks like he might be a long-term fit in center field, and currently leads the Hillsboro Hops in most offensive categories.
Oh, and he's only 18.
His name is Kristian Robinson, and he might be the best player to suit up for a season with the Hillsboro Hops since top overall draft pick Dansby Swanson in 2015.
Until recently, Robinson, an outfielder from Nassau, Bahamas, ranked as the Arizona Diamondbacks' fifth-best prospect. But Robinson's stock has been on the rise as he tears through Northwest League pitching.
On Friday, July 26, a midseason update of prospect rankings by MLB.com analysts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis named Robinson as the Diamondbacks' third-best prospect — and the 93rd-best in all of baseball, placing him for the first time on the prestigious top-100 list.
"A case can be made that Robinson has the highest ceiling of any player in Arizona's system as a future slugger who could also stick in center field," the website notes in a brief scouting report on Robinson.
Hops manager Javier Colina knows he's getting to coach a rising star in baseball.
"He's so special," Colina said, after watching Robinson steal two bases and score the winning run in a game Monday, July 29. "For me, he's the best player in the league, no doubt."
For his part, Robinson tries to stay medium. He's building confidence in his own ability, growing more comfortable in the outfield and enjoying his duels at the plate. But while it's nice to be mentioned among baseball's hottest prospects, he said, he knows there's a difference between being named a top prospect and realizing that potential in the major leagues.
"It's pretty cool," Robinson said of being a top-100 prospect, "but I still have a lot of work to do."
While it's his first time on the MLB.com list of the best 100 prospects in the sport, Robinson has been a fixture on the website's ranking of top Diamondbacks talent for some time, and he was considered one of the best international amateur free agents available when he first signed with Arizona two years ago.
"That never fazed me," Robinson said. "I've still got to do what I've got to do to get there."
He continued: "You know, a list doesn't mean anything. A list is what a lot of educated people put on a piece of paper to put in front of the fans and whoever follows baseball to project what these guys are going to do when they come up. So it still leaves it up to you to get the job done."
Being charged with developing a prospect as promising as Robinson is a big responsibility. But Colina said Robinson, whom he described as mature beyond his years, makes it easy.
"I don't want him to do too much. I just want him to be him," Colina said. "Because it's a gift from God."
Robinson is one of three Diamondbacks minor leaguers on MLB.com's top-100 prospects list. He's the only one who is currently on the Hillsboro Hops' roster.
Arizona's top-30 prospect list, which was also updated Friday, features five Hops in all.
Luis Frias, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic who has been one of the best pitchers in the Northwest League this season, ranks 13th on the list. He was unranked coming into the season, but a high strikeout rate and low earned run average with Hillsboro has helped to put him on the prospect radar.
Drey Jameson, one of the Diamondbacks' first-round draft picks in June, ranks 14th. The 21-year-old right-hander was the Friday starter for Ball State University before turning pro. Arizona selected him with the 34th overall pick.
Another high-drafted pitcher, 22-year-old left-handed Tommy Henry, ranks 20th. Henry was the Diamondbacks' 74th overall pick out of the University of Michigan.
Rounding out the quintet of top-30 prospects on the Hops' roster is local star Ryne Nelson. A former two-way player for the University of Oregon, the 21-year-old Nelson was drafted in the second round, with the 56th overall draft pick, as a right-handed pitcher last month. He slots in as the Diamondbacks' 23rd-best prospect, according to MLB.com.
The top-30 list also features several other names that should be familiar to longtime Hops fans, including 2017 Hops catcher Daulton Varsho (fifth), 2018 Hops starting pitcher Matt Tabor (10th), and 2014 Hops first baseman Kevin Cron (24th).
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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