There’s just something about being around family for Mason Robbins.
The former George County slugger was back on the Coast this past weekend as a member of the visiting Birmingham Barons. His swing through South Mississippi just so happened to coincide with a 11-game hitting streak, his longest of the season.
During the five-game visit, the former Rebel and Southern Miss standout was 6-for-21 with four RBIs and just one strikeout. In nine career games against the hometown Biloxi Shuckers, Robbins is hitting .286 (10-for-35).
Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
“Luckily as of late I have kind of hit my stride — nice for my folks that I have hit my stride when I’m playing near them so they can watch me play. That’s what it’s all about – representing your family well and I get to do it near home, which most people don’t get to do,” Robbins said prior to Monday’s game, which saw his streak come to an end. “It’s just fun being near home and getting people who haven’t seen me since high school to come and watch me.”
Drafted in the 25th round of the 2014 draft by the Chicago White Sox, Robbins has made a steady progression through the minors. He hit .304 and .263 in each of his first two seasons at the rookie level and Class A. At High-A last year, Robbins led the Carolina League with a .314 average and 159 hits. Since being promoted to Double-A, Robbins is hitting .272 with a .297 on-base percentage and .329 slugging percentage. Although his power numbers are down, Robbins has cut his strikeout rate to 8.7 percent (down from 16.4) and slightly improved walk rate to 3.5 percent.
“I tried not to tweak anything from last season, maybe a few different things as far as getting in better counts and trying to walk more,” Robbins said. “Strikeouts are down. I’ve widened out a little more from last year to try and put the ball in play a little more so I wouldn’t strike out as much but still make hard contact.”
His walk rate is still relatively low, but Robbins said he tries not to focus on that one singular aspect of his game.
“I feel like my aggressiveness is one of the things that helps me out a lot: I hit the fastballs and don’t get to the offspeed later on in the count,” he said. “If you think about walking you’re going to be passive and I try not to think about that.”
If Robbins is going to continue to climb the minors, he believes he has a good idea what he needs to accomplish moving forward.
“I feel like my defense is good to go forward. I think it’s my patience and walking a little more that will ultimately get me up,” he said. “Probably the power numbers aren’t there right now. Maybe that will fall later on in my career.
“Ultimately patience at the plate and getting good pitches to hit.”
This is an interesting time to be in the White Sox organization. The Barons’ parent club is in the midst of a massive rebuild that has required trading off veterans like Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and most recently Todd Frazier.
The restructuring of the organization presents an interesting dilemma for any minor leaguer. On one hand, trades mean jobs are opening up in Chicago. But then again, the White Sox are adding premium blue-chip prospects with each deal.
“That’s the nature of the beast and what this game is all about. You just have to do the best you can,” Robbins said. “You can’t control what you can’t control. You just have to play to the best of your ability and hopefully everything will fall.
“They always say your best ability is availability – that’s something the White Sox instilled in me from Day 1.”
To the top
A proud USM alumni, Robbins kept up with the Golden Eagles’ post-season run regardless of where the Barons were playing.
“Southern Miss did good. I was proud of them,” he said. “I was yelling at my computer screen, though, during the Mississippi State game.
“It was just unfortunate those two fly balls not being caught, but that’s just sometimes how it falls. That’s baseball sometimes.”
From one prep standout to another, Robbins knew early on that freshman phenom Matt Wallner was going to be special.
“I think he’s going to be a stud. If he keeps doing what he’s doing he has potential to be a first-round pick, I believe,” Robbins said. “I saw him in the offseason when I went up there to work out. He’s just – he’s 6-5 or whatever he is, throws 95 off the mound and hit the most home runs as a freshman (in school history).
“He’s an all-around player and it’s fun to watch him play.”