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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Florida Southern Shortstop Robbie Shields (Preseason PG-X #23 Prospect) in Action

Anup Sinha        

LAKELAND, FL- Florida Southern College shortstop Robbie Shields was the prospect who brought me to historic Henley Field on Friday.  The Dade City native was ranked #23 in the preseason by PGCrosschecker.com shortly after an injury-plagued Cape League where he hit .349-2-11 in 43 AB.

Florida Southern was taking on Palm Beach Atlantic, another Division II program but one that is fairly new and still building.  FSC would go on to win 16-2 and Shields didn’t face any prospect-type pitchers. 

It’s harder to scout when your prospect a)is swinging aluminum and b)is not facing anything near MLB or even lower minor league pitching. 

Nevertheless, I did see Shields in six plate appearances.  And though he didn’t field a grounder in the first eight innings, I got to see three during the ninth!

My feeling from what I saw and from talking to scouts (around Florida) is that Shields is no longer looked at in terms of the first round; one mentioned to me that he could see him going in the 3rd-4th.

Physically, he’s 6-0, 200, with a prominent lower-half.  I believe Shields has put on a good bit of muscle in his legs and hips which make him stronger, but also has stiffened some of his actions.  Shields’s upper body has width to it but it is not nearly as developed as his lower half.  He will surely fill out and get stronger in his chest and back and I would expect him to be 210-220 by maturity.

Shields’s best tool for me is his throwing arm, which grades out a solid-average 55 on the 20-80 scale.  He also has line-drive power and the potential to become a 20+ HR guy. 

Shields swings with what I call a flat bat; he starts with a low bat angle that makes him long to the ball inside, but gives him more pop on the outer half.  His bat-speed projects to average with wood down the road and there’s a natural loft to his swing that should allow for 55-60 raw power. 

Shields did struggle with balls on the inner half, unable to do more than pop them up from his kitchen.  And predictably, he showed an affinity for pitches on the outer half.  Shields ended the day going 1-4 with a ground-rule double to right field and both a walk and a hit-by-pitch.  He had some idea on the breaking ball, but still a long way before he can handle major league curves and sliders.

Shields is a power-type runner; his strides are short and strong, but I don’t grade him out as more than a 45 runner.  My one running time home-to-first was 4.53 on a slow break from the box.  His lateral agility is even less at shortstop, so my hunch is that he’ll be a third baseman in pro ball.  Shields’s first step is good and I think his range will be average there.  His hands and his glove-to-hand transfer work well enough to make him a solid defensive hot corner guy. 

Notably, Shields did make two throwing errors in the ninth inning.  One of them was after making a fine play in the hole, where he got a good jump and backhanded the ball cleanly.  Both throws sailed over the first baseman’s head.  They led to Palm Beach Atlantic’s only two runs which prevented a FSC shutout.

Only one major league scout was in attendance as a much bigger crowd gathered in Tampa to watch Mychal Givens (PGX #13) pitch and play shortstop for Plant High School.

Also of note in this game, sophomore lefty Max Russell pitched for FSC and showed that he could be a high draft in 2010.  The 6-1, 200 Connecticut native had good arm-action with an over-the-top slot and an athletic delivery.  Despite a slight head jerk, his delivery was smooth and he threw 87-88 MPH in the early innings with the ability to spin a curveball.  Many of his curveballs broke too early, but it has the potential to become a major league in a few years.  He’s definitely a pitcher to put on the follow list for the 2010 draft.


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