Daniel Robertson Shines On Defense
Middle infielder Daniel Robertson flashed enough leather and showed enough promise this season to convince the Rays that—eventually—he can be a good big league player.
Good enough that they sent him back to Triple-A Durham in late August for a stint playing every day.
The organization wanted the 23-year-old Robertson to get regular at-bats for a few weeks, including during the International League playoffs, rather than receive sporadic playing time in the majors. He missed six weeks at midseason to the disabled list, which may have stunted his development.
As smooth, intuitive and valuable as Robertson looked in the field, he certainly struggled at the plate. He hit .211/.302/.340 with five home runs in 66 games for Tampa Bay, starting games at second base (35), shortstop (15) and third base (eight).
But there may have been other numbers involved in the decision to demote him.
By staying in the minors for at least 20 days, Robertson won’t have a full year of major league service time. That means his eligibility for free agency would be delayed a year—to after the 2023 season. It’s worth noting that the Rays had planned to send him down in June under the same premise, but after Robertson reported issues with his neck, his minor league option was rescinded and he hit the major league DL.
In sending Robertson down after signing veteran utility infielder Danny Espinosa to fill-in for September, general manager Erik Neander said: "We want to be as competitive as possible while also doing what we can to provide our young players the best opportunities to maximize the development of their talent."
So why all the fuss?
Robertson, a 2012 supplemental first-round pick by the Athletics out of high school who the Rays acquired in the Ben Zobrist trade, is a strong defender at either middle-infield position who plays the game smartly and aggressively.
"He's made the routine plays and then he's made some spectacular plays at second and at short," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It's a good thing when we're sitting in the dugout and you're saying, 'I hope this ground ball goes to Robby.' As a young player, that's saying something.’’
• Three of the Rays' four full-season affiliates made the playoffs—Durham, Double-A Montgomery and low Class A Bowling Green. High Class A Charlotte was eliminated on the final weekend.
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• Top pick and two-way talent Brendan McKay picked up his first pro win at short-season Hudson Valley on Sept. 3. He went 1-0, 1.80 through six starts while hitting .227 with four homers, 21 RBIs and a .706 OPS in 34 games.