Robbie Erlin, LHP San Diego Padres
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 180
Robbie Erlin was acquired by the Padres from the Texas Rangers in 2011. Erlin was included in a package deal for RP Mike Adams along with fellow SP Joe Wieland. Erlin was originally selected by the Rangers in the 3rd round of the 2009 Amateur Draft out of Scotts Valley High School in California. Erlin was All County Player of the Year and went 9-1 with an 0.63 ERA. He struck out 125 in 62 High School innings.
After being drafted, Erlin started his pro career in the in the Arizona Summer League for a very short 4 inning stint that had him strikeout 9 batters with one walk. In 2010, started to take on some innings, going 6-3 in 114.2 innings. He led the Sally League in WHIP and ERA while striking out 125 and walking just 17. Both excellent ratios.
In 2011, he started the season in the Carolina League and actually upped his production in 9 starts where he dropped a 2.14 ERA and 31.3% K rate and a miniscule 2.5% walk rate. The performance earned a quick bump up to Double-A Texas League where he had continued success going 5-2, but also got his first dose of advanced plate approach from hitters. His ERA jumped to 4.32 through a matchup with with San Antonio. The same San Antonio team he would switch dugouts and join the next day after being traded to the Padres.
Erlin’s overall effectiveness and numbers put him square on the radar and he placed at #5 on the Padres 2012 Top 10 while breaking into the Top 100 for the Baseball Instinct 360°:
85°. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres, 10/8/1990 – The main question is whether his lack of a premium fastball will prevent him from maintaining similar performance at the major league level. His excellent ability to locate the ball within the strike zone however, bodes well for future success. He is a fly ball pitcher, but Petco is very kind to that type of pitcher. I like Erlin’s chances to succeed and he’ll become a solid mid-rotation starter that can bring good fantasy value with his peripheral stats. Likely to start in AAA ball, but arrival in the majors is not far away. ETA 2012.
With Erlin almost certainly headed for Triple-A Tuscan let’s take a deeper look at the arsenal and the mechanics to see what has made Erlin a top LHP prospect.
Erlin isn’t a power pitcher and isn’t that prospect that people say has frontline stuff. But what he does have he utilizes to its upside. He works with a fastball in the 88-90 range, but his velocity has been upticking as he matures. He currently tops out around 93 and he could work more in that range as his frame fills out. But right now we can say his fastball is average as far as velocity goes.
We’re going to get deeper into his mechanics in a moment, but his fastball plays up because of his command which is a byproduct of his delivery. He’s able to work the quadrants of the strike-zone at will which put inexperienced hitters at a major disadvantage.
Throw in a possible plus to plus plus changeup and the high K rates make sense with the lack of velocity. The Change has excellent fade and is a full 10+ mph below the fastball. The low minor league hitters never really stood a chance.
He also throws an above average curveball in the 70s with excellent tilt. It’s a strikeout pitch. How well it plays against his fastball at the major league level is still a question.
Erlin has clean mechanics and a solid lower half already. His delivery is a plus in his player profile presently. Let’s take a look at some video to get a visual.
His delivery is smooth and simple from set to landing. He hides the ball well, repeats his arm action and slot with all three pitches and is in premium fielding position when he’s complete. He looks a lot like Mark Buehrle and I’m one who hates making comps. But it is what it is.
I don’t see any red flags when it comes to the mechanics. There is no point where he over-stresses his arm. It’s a clean and repeatable allowing him to use pinpoint control to his advantage. I don’t see that changing at the next level.
As Robbie Erlin moves up the ladder some things that have made him very successful at the lower levels will begin to be his Achilles heel. That pinpoint control is going to be a problem. That is until he learns to use it outside the zone. He’s worked in the zone even when in pure pitchers counts. Eventually that’s going to lead to balls leaving the park. More than will be acceptable. Major League hitters behind in the count are going to hit balls in the zone.
But when he learns to use that control to work outside the zone, bury the curve, fade the change out of reach, change the eye level with a fastball… it’s a change that has to be made. And once completed will allow him to work through major league lineups.
While he doesn’t have the size or the electric stuff, Erlin, has the control and the mechanics to take his three pitch mix and command and beat major league hitters. He’ll fit well into the middle of a rotation, toss in Petco as his probable future home park and he has a recipe for future success.
Major league rotations can be built around a pitcher like what Erlin may someday be. He won’t be an ace. But he can be a very good major league starter.
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