Deep within the list of names in every draft there are sleepers who come out of nowhere to make an impact soon after joining an organization. Taken by the New York Yankees in the 21st round out of USC, outfielder Timmy Robinson is one name, who stands out in his first professional season, leading the Staten Island Yankees in RBI and becoming an offensive juggernaut.
Originally a two-sport athlete at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, California, Robinson’s collegiate options weighed heavily on which sport he’d pursue. To generate interest from prospective schools, Coach Shane Borowski created a YouTube highlight reel of Robinson’s high school career and sent it to various universities.
After gauging interest from both USC and UNLV, Robinson chose to focus exclusively on a baseball career at USC and leave behind the gridiron, where he was an MVP quarterback as a senior. “I did not have many teams talking with me. UNLV was the first team to offer me a scholarship, but my mom wanted me to weigh all of my options. Later on, USC contacted me, and I committed there just based on what the Trojan family represents and the degree I can get from there,” Robinson said.
Robinson was an immediate starter as a true freshman and progressively improved his play along with his team’s performance. Although his first collegiate year was predominantly a learning experience, Robinson recorded a season-high 12 game hitting streak and reached base in 15 consecutive games. “Each year for me was different. From the second I walked on the campus, Coach Hubbs liked me, and I earned the starting job on opening day of my freshman year. Being a center fielder, the coach asked me to be a leader, and I learned how to lead by example.”
Away from campus, Robinson turned to his half-brother, former Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Alex Burnett, for baseball advisement and developed a deep connection with him while growing up together as youths in Southern California and even spent a summer with Burnett while he was in the Twins’ minor league system.
“I talk to Alex all the time. He is like a father figure to me. My mom raised both of us by ourselves. We grew up living together, and we were always playing whiffle ball together. When he went out to pro ball, I spent a summer in Beloit, Wisconsin because I wanted to be in that atmosphere. I am thankful to have a brother who was able to fill me in on what pro ball is all about”, Robinson explains.
A four-year starter at USC, Robinson was a First Team All-Pac 12 recipient in 2015 and set career highs in home runs, doubles, and OPS in his final season of eligibility before the draft. Robinson’s college roommate Brooks Kriske earned notice from the Yankees as a sixth round pick and was elated to discover that Robinson would reunite with him when the pinstripes took him on the second day of the draft since both of them were assigned to Staten Island for their first professional season.
“Kriske and I roomed together our sophomore year. We came back together our senior year for one more go around. He got drafted in the sixth round and my teammates, and I went over to his apartment to congratulate him. The next day he congratulated me when I was drafted and since then we want to share in the prestige of the Yankees organization and in the long run with the big league club.”
As the everyday right fielder for Staten Island, Robinson surprised casual observers with his power and his penchant for delivering key hits with runners in scoring position. Most noticeably, Robinson ranks second in the New York-Penn League in RBI with 29 entering play in August and became a model of consistency in the starting lineup after five starters were promoted to Charleston in mid-July. Robinson’s talents were on full display on July 21 when he recorded two home runs and five RBI in a 6-5 victory over the Tri-City ValleyCats.
“Going into that week, I had to make an in-box adjustment and give myself a little more room, so I can stay through balls and pull my hands in. Teams started to pitch me inside, and now I am able to hit those balls, which helped me pull the ball that night and was able to do some damage.”
A hard worker by nature, Robinson strives to adapt continually to situations while harnessing his talents. Managed and coached by Dave Bialas and Eric Duncan in Staten Island, Robinson has a strong foundation of leaders front of him and cites his willingness to take their advisement as a primary factor to making quick adjustments.
“I have been used to making adjustments throughout my whole life. I am adaptable to a lot of things, which will also help me in the long run. I think it pays off to be coachable and be able to make tweaks right away and not feel uncomfortable,” Robinson said.