There are lots of rookies taking Major League Baseball by storm in 2015 — Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Kyle Schwarber, Luis Severino, Matt Duffy. They’re all having great seasons, and they’re all great stories. If those are the only names you focus on, however, you will end up missing a great one. That the Washington Nationals have melted down and are hanging onto postseason hopes by a whisker should not diminish the story of one of their rookies, Clint Robinson. At 30 years old — yes, 30! — Robinson is still a rookie.
Robinson was a 25th-round pick of the Kansas City Royals out of Troy University all the way back in 2007. As he rose through the Royals’ system, he was a hitting machine, batting .302 with 141 home runs. Unfortunately for Robinson, he found himself just a notch below the rest of the great prospects making their way up through the ranks. Through no fault of his own, Robinson fell into that dreaded 4-A category, a guy who would rake at Triple-A but could just not find his way to the Major League level.
The outfielder/first baseman got cups of coffee with the Royals and Los Angeles Dodgers, but he never shed his rookie label. After eight years, all Robinson had to show for his efforts were 13 games and 13 at-bats at the highest level. Finally, though, Robinson has been given his chance in 2015 thanks to the injury bug that has plowed its way through the heart of the Nationals lineup.
Robinson played sporadically in April and May, amassing only 55 plate appearances in the season’s first two months, but he was firmly entrenched as a member of the Nationals and a Major Leaguer. In June, when the Nationals were forced to turn to him, Robinson rewarded manager Matt Williams‘ confidence and batted .292 while hitting his first three career home runs. The 30-year-old rookie has now played in 107 games and posted a .272/.368/.423 line with seven home runs and 31 runs knocked in. Without his consistent play, the Nationals could very well be even further than seven games behind the New York Mets.
Whether Clint Robinson is a one-year wonder or a viable big leaguer doesn’t really matter. His story is a great one that will lose some shine because the Nationals will not make the postseason. If they had been able to hold on, Robinson would have been just as important in creating that success as any of the big names on the star-studded roster. Robinson’s story is an excellent case of perseverance and never giving up. How many others would have called it a career after eight mostly unrewarded seasons?
Not Robinson. He had faith in his abilities, and he has finally gotten to taste the fruits of so many years of blood, sweat, and tears. Robinson’s story isn’t the flashiest among this year’s crop of rookies. He will not find himself on an All-Star team in the future like many of the other names in his class, and he may not even find himself on a big league roster in 2016. None of that should take away from what Clint Robinson has been able to do in 2015.