A Different Look

PLACENTIA, Calif.–Day two of the National Classic is well underway, and the game that drew more than 30 scouts–almost all of which were regional or national crosscheckers as well as a half-dozen scouting directors–was a 10 a.m., tilt featuring senior lefty Tanner Robles (Cottonwood High, Salt Lake City).

Robles was chosen to play in the Aflac Classic last August, made the preliminary cut for the under-18 U.S. national team and was a second-team Preseason High School All-American.

He was amped up for this outing, which was evident before he ever threw a pitch as he fidgeted and chatted with teammates behind the mound during the national anthem, and though he held Central Private High (Baker, La.) to four hits and an earned run in five innings, his stuff and delivery were not as impressive as they were last summer.

Robles’ fastball velocity was up to 94 mph last year. He pitched at 88, touching 92 mph today. His curveball and changeup were weapons when I saw him dominate competition at multiple showcase and wood bat tournaments last summer. Today, his curveball was loopy with inconsistent shape. He struck out nine and walked four, and worked deep in counts.

Of course, he’s still working himself into pitching shape and has less than a month of the season under his belt. And Robles’ delivery has always been unorthodox, as he tilts his left shoulder toward second base, rocking back before sling-shotting the ball from an over-the-top arm slot. It has outstanding deception, as the ball jumps on hitters, but it also creates inconsistency in his stuff and command.

His arm is quick and loose, but he lands on a stiff front leg, which prevents him from getting extension on his pitches. His fastball lacked life and plane.

His body is more muscular and cut than it was last year, and an offseason workout regimen has clearly improved his strength, but perhaps at the expense of the fluidity his delivery once featured.

“I worked out five days a week, hard,” Robles explained after the game. “Lifting, hitting and throwing, core strength. I really did it all.”

Robles said he didn’t feel like his conditioning has cost him any flexibility, though that was the perception among some of the scouts in attendance. “He looks stiff and rigid to me,” said a crosschecker with a National League team. “If you think the velocity might be there for him in the future, you might like to have him, but there are a lot of things that need to be cleaned up in his delivery.”