Any kid who plays baseball dreams of one day making it to the big leagues. The ultimate, of course, is achieving that with the hometown team.
That's exactly what Dodgers outfielder Trayvon Robinson is on the cusp of doing. Robinson, now 23, grew up in Los Angeles and was drafted back in 2005 out of Crenshaw High School. There's no question the thoughtful center fielder has let the concept of playing in Dodger Stadium enter his mind a time or two.
"I think about it all the time, every time, before I go to sleep," said Robinson, the No. 4 prospect on the Dodgers' Top 10 list. "But I can't turn it into pressure. I just have to go out and do my thing."
Robinson may have learned that the hard way in 2010. Following a breakout '09 season, Robinson was added to the 40-man roster. That made his dream of playing in his backyard seem much closer. It also made him try to do too much. He hit .224 over his first month with Double-A Chattanooga. He caught himself, made some adjustments and went on to perform much like he had the previous year, finishing with a .300 average, .404 on-base percentage and 38 steals.
"I was worrying about a lot of stuff that was going on in Los Angeles," Robinson admitted. "I'm worrying about the big league club and, at one point, I said, 'You know what? I'm in Tennessee. There's nothing I can do. I just need to go out and play.' I put a little bit of pressure on myself.
"All this stuff happened in 2009. In November, I was put on the 40-man roster. When April came, I started thinking about LA. Around May, I said, 'You know what, I'm out of control. It's nothing I can control.'"
It's a lesson he's taken with him to Arizona this spring. Ready for the step up to Triple-A, Robinson is now the proverbial phone call away from living his dream. Perhaps without his rough start to 2010, he'd come in this spring trying to make the big league club with every at-bat. After fighting through that a year ago though, he's a little more prepared to roll with whatever comes his way.
"Whatever happens, happens," Robinson said. "It's out of my control. Everybody's dream is to break with a big league team out of Spring Training, but I'm going to ride the wave wherever it takes me."
Dodgers' Top 10 Prospects
1. Dee Gordon, SS: Gordon came in at No. 44 on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects rankings and was the No. 4 rated shortstop prospect in baseball. Tom Gordon's son is a terrific athlete with plus speed that makes him a big base-stealing threat and helps him defensively, as well. He's still not polished at short, but he's got the tools to be a premium leadoff hitter in the future. He'll move up to Triple-A to refine his skills and wait for that first call.
2. Ethan Martin, RHP: Just outside the top 50, Martin's stock has slid a bit, largely because of a lack of command. His walk rate, which wasn't great in his first season (5.5) went up to 6.4 per nine innings in 2010. But he's still only 21 and has a great arm, one that can throw plus fastballs and curves along with an evolving changeup. If he can get in a groove -- even if it means repeating a level -- he still has a very high ceiling.
WHEN WILL THEY ARRIVE?
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4. Trayvon Robinson, OF: Yes, Robinson still strikes out a bit too much for a leadoff hitter (143 in 2009; 125 in 2010), but he's also improved his plate discipline and learned to draw more walks (73 in 2010 for a career high on-base percentage). With 85 steals the past two seasons, he has the speed to be a catalyst and could help out in Los Angeles before this season is over.
5. Zach Lee, RHP: No one except the Dodgers thought they'd sign Lee, their first-round pick last June. A big quarterback recruit, he was actually on LSU's campus, working out when the deal was done at the deadline. Two-sport stars often are a little behind, but Lee has all the makings of a front-line starter with a plus fastball and breaking ball while showing a feel for a changeup. He's very athletic and brings a football-like competitiveness to the mound. He could go straight to full-season Great Lakes to make his debut.
6. Chris Withrow, RHP: Like Martin, Withrow's arm and pure stuff still excite the Dodgers. He's got a plus fastball and curve and he's still developing his changeup. Command issues, stemming largely from mechanical problems, certainly held him back. He'll be just 22 this season, so repeating Double-A really won't set him back at all. If things come together, he could still be the starter the Dodgers envisioned when they took him in the first round of the 2007 Draft.
7. Allen Webster, RHP: In his first taste of full-season ball, Webster was a Midwest League All-Star, tying for the league lead in wins and finishing third in ERA (he led all Dodgers farmhands in both categories). He's got a solid three-pitch mix and has good command of all of them. He may not have the ceiling of the other right-handers on this list, but he might be the safest bet to become a big-league starter. He'll move up to the hitting-friendly California League to start 2011.
8. Kenley Jansen, RHP: A catcher who couldn't hit but could throw, Jansen moved to the mound in the middle of the 2009 season. The results, to say the least, have been astounding. He went from the California League to the big leagues in 2010 and dominated big league hitters with a plus-plus fastball and a slider that can be plus at times. He's got future closer stuff and will learn under Jonathan Broxton's wing for now.
9. Jerry Sands, 1B/OF: It took him two summers to get to full-season ball, then he hopped on a faster track, going from Class A right up to Double-A over the course of 2010. Along the way, he bashed 35 homers, third in the Minors. The power is legit, and he's become a much better all-around hitter. He runs well for his size and has shown he can man first base or an outfield corner. He could be ready for LA by next year.
10. Scott Elbert, LHP: It hasn't been a particularly straight path for the 2004 first-rounder, but Elbert does look poised to contribute full-time in Los Angeles. He actually left the game for a spell last year but came back and then threw well in the Arizona Fall League. He still has power stuff from the left side and while he's largely been a starter in the Minors, he should help the Dodgers bullpen in 2011.
Under the Radar
Brian Cavazos-Galvez, OF: Taken in the 12th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of New Mexico, Cavazos-Galvez won Pioneer League MVP honors his first summer, though he was an "old" 22 at the time. He moved to full-season ball last year and was a Midwest League All-Star, albeit one who turned 23 in May. He could put up big numbers in the California League, perhaps starting to push a little faster up the ladder.
Ivan De Jesus, SS/2B: He fell off the map after a broken leg forced him to miss all but four games of the 2009 season. He hit well in Triple-A in 2010 while playing both middle infield positions, then continued to play in the Arizona Fall League and in Puerto Rico. He even played some third this fall and winter, increasing his value as a utility man who could help in the Majors at some point in 2011.
Hitter of the Year -- Jerry Sands, 1B/OF
Really going out on a limb, picking the guy who won the honor last year. But Sands will prove 2010 was no fluke, once again challenging for the Minor League lead in home runs while also driving in plenty and hitting for a decent average.
Pitcher of the Year -- Allen Webster
Just like Sands, Webster will make it two in a row, showing that he has no problem with the California League and earning a promotion before the season's end, all while leading the system in ERA.