MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Determined Robertson leads A's prospects in AFL

Determined Robertson leads A's prospects in AFL

Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson have been linked since the Athletics selected them early in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Oakland made the high school shortstops their first two picks, Russell 11th overall and Robertson 34th.

They played together during their first pro summer before the A's split them up so they both could play shortstop on a regular basis. Russell quickly established himself as one of the best prospects in baseball and looked like he'd be Oakland's shortstop of the future, with Robertson eventually having to find a new position. But that outlook changed in July, when the A's made Russell the centerpiece of the trade that brought Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel over from the Cubs.

The deal split up Russell and Robertson, though they were reunited in the Arizona Fall League. They shared the shortstop position for three weeks on the Mesa Solar Sox before Russell left early. Robertson said while he was sad to lose Russell as a teammate, the trade heartened him because it showed Oakland believed he can stay at shortstop.

"Addison is a heck of a player and one of my best friends," Roberston said. "I was happy for him to see what his new journey is, and at the same time for me it was just kind of the next step for me. To see the A's were confident in me to one day take over that spot in the big leagues is just a blessed opportunity for me and my career."

Robertson has most of the tools scouts want in a shortstop. While he's not flashy, he has the instincts, hands and arm strength to be an average defender. Some evaluators think his below-average speed and quickness eventually will push him to second or third base, though he's determined to stay put.

"I put in a lot of hard work with our infield coordinator, Juan Navarrete, and we just grinded away at the shortstop position," Robertson said. "A lot of people didn't think I could stick there and I just kind of worked hard there for the last couple years and showed people I could stick around there. If Addy was still with us, and they said slide over to second or slide over to third, I would have been OK with it, but to show where all the work I put in paid off to where I could stay at short is a huge honor."

Wherever Robertson plays, his bat could make him a star. With his compact right-handed stroke, sound grasp of the strike zone and all-fields approach, he should hit for average and produce solid power once he fills out his 6-foot, 190-pound frame. He batted .310/.402/.471 with 15 homers as a 20-year-old in Class A Advanced this year, leading the California League with 170 hits and 37 doubles, then got promoted to Double-A for the Texas League playoffs and helped Midland win the championship.

Robertson has continued to swing a hot bat in Arizona. Through Tuesday, he's batting .444 with a league-leading .520 on-base percentage. His performance has earned him a spot in Saturday's Fall Stars Game, which will begin at 5 p.m. MT, be broadcast on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com.

Athletics hitters in the AFL

• The 47th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, Matt Olson finished third in the Minors this year with 37 homers while topping the California League in that category as well as runs (111), extra-base hits (69), total bases (278) and walks (117). He has continued to mash for the Solar Sox, leading the AFL with a .686 slugging percentage and ranking second with four homers, and he'll join Robertson in the Fall Stars Game. Olson might be the best first-base prospect in baseball today, with above-average power and uncommon patience at the plate.

• Outfielder Boog Powell experienced extreme highs and lows in 2014, winning MVP honors at the Midwest League all-star game and hitting .343/.451/.435 with 16 steals in 83 games between two Class A stops but also drawing a 50-game suspension after testing positive for an amphetamine. A 20th-round pick from Orange Coast (Calif.) JC in 2012 who signed for $20,000, he has solid speed and center-field skills.

Athletics pitchers in the AFL

• The younger brother of A's closer Sean Doolittle, right-hander Ryan Doolittle is a control specialist whose best pitch is a straight 89-92 mph fastball. A 20th-round pick out of Cumberland (N.J.) CC in 2008, he had a 2.98 ERA and a 60/21 K/BB ratio in 57 1/3 innings this year, mostly in Double-A.

• Another finesse right-hander, Drew Granier throws strikes with four decent pitches, highlighted by an 86-91 mph sinker and a changeup. A 32nd-rounder in 2011 from Louisiana-Monroe, he went 7-7, 4.56 with 93 strikeouts in 126 1/3 innings as a Double-A starter this season.

• Right-hander Austin House has shown the ability to get swings and misses with his 88-93 mph sinker and lively changeup since turning pro as a 14th-rounder from New Mexico in 2012. He had a 3.06 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings this year, mostly in Class A Advanced.

• Right-hander Tanner Peters had a strong 2013 season, but missed almost all of this year with shoulder issues. The 2011 16th-rounder from Nevada-Las Vegas throws a ton of strikes and keeps hitters off balance by pitching backwards with his curveball and changeup.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.