Patrick Ochs

George County's Walker Robbins not thrown off his game with MLB draft looming

By PATRICK OCHS

pochs@sunherald.com

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDGeorge County pitcher Walker Robbins tossed a no-hitter against D'Iberville last Friday.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDGeorge County pitcher Walker Robbins tossed a no-hitter against D'Iberville last Friday.

Decisions, decisions. Pitch or hit? Sign or go to college?

Before long, George County's Walker Robbins will have to answer those questions and more.

Scouts have been on the southpaw for a few years now and in June, he'll likely be selected high enough in the MLB draft where he'll have a decision to make. That's a good position to be in if you're the Robbins family, which has already experienced the process with older brothers Mason and Logan. Now it's Walker's turn.

George County coach Brandon Davis has coached some big-timer prep products, including JaCoby Jones at Richton and Justin Steele at GCHS.

Two-in-one prospect

Where Robbins, a Mississippi State signee, is different is he could potentially make it on mound or at the plate.

"I've never coached a kid like that," Davis said Monday, two days after his Rebels clinched their region and a first-round bye in the Class 6A playoffs. "With Steele, he could hit in high school but you knew he was going to be on the mound. JaCoby threw well -- hard -- but he was never considered to be a pitcher. This is the first guy I've had who has the opportunity to do both."

On the mound, Robbins has mixed pitches well this year. In Friday's no-hitter against D'Iberville, it took Robbins an inning to find the umpire's strike zone but he ended up mixing a fastball that zips into the lower 90s with a changeup and curveball to strike out 11 Warriors. The outing wasn't an outlier for Robbins, who is 5-1 this year with a paltry 0.49 ERA. He's also struck out 76 batters -- good for fifth in the state -- against 10 walks in 42 2/3 innings of work.

"He has been consistent for us since last year," Davis said. "That's what we expect him to do when he steps on the mound and that's what he expects from himself."

Showing patience

At the plate, Walker has made the most of his opportunities, hitting .423 with two homers, six doubles and a .589 on-base percentage.

His 19 walks rank among Mississippi's leaders, but such is life in high school baseball. When you're elite, opponents would rather just put you on first than mess with you.

"Usually I'll get pitched to in my first at-bat, but if there's a base open the next time they usually walk me," Robbins said Friday. "Sometimes it is (frustrating), but I guess you just have to take it.

"I guess that's a show of respect if they don't want to throw to you, so you just have to tip your cap to them and keep on throwing."

Davis said it's that kind of attitude that will help take Walker far. Off the field, the 6-foot-3 Robbins is an easy-going country boy at heart. Once he crosses the chalk, opponents beware.

"That's just his nature and who he is. He loves to play baseball. He's going to continue to play after high school at some level and he's really just happy to be a part of it," Davis said. "I don't think there's any arrogance about him. He's very respectful to the game of baseball.

"I think it's going to help him go a long way."

Top round talent

So, just how far?

Perfect Game currently has Robbins ranked as the 30th prep prospect in the country. In December, the website ranked him as the 87th draft prospect. Last week, PG projected Robbins as a top three-round draft pick.

When Robbins first popped up in scouting circles it was because of his thunderbolt for a left arm. Perfect Game managing editor and scout Patrick Ebert told the Sun Herald on Tuesday that Robbins projections have talent evaluators especially intrigued.

"He's certainly an interesting player. He can really hit," Ebert said during a phone interview. "The thing that stands out is prior to last summer when we saw him at some of our big events he was viewed more as a left-handed pitcher than a first baseman. He can get his fastball up to 92 and definitely knows how to pitch. But then you watch him take batting practice or even hit in game situations and watch how the ball carries off his bat. ... When he hits the ball, it just keeps traveling. He has the ability to put backspin on the ball so it just keeps carrying.

"Those are all things that when you're looking at it, you have a left-hander who throws in the low 90s but then you see his left-handed bat and his swing, and it's just hard not to take him as a hitter. The bat has definitely stepped forward."

MSU in town

Mississippi State will be in town Wednesday to play Louisiana-Monroe at MGM Park. Robbins said he's supposed to meet with the staff at some point while they're on the Coast to discuss the future.

"I'm surprised they really haven't come in and tried to say a bunch of stuff," he said. "They've just been calling me and checking in with me. Three of the coaches are supposed to come down next week. It'll be nice to sit down with them and talk with them."

In talking with Robbins, it almost seems like his future is on everyone's mind ... except him.

"There's been a couple (MLB scouts) come to practices and games," he said. "One of them told me, 'don't think about scouts. It's your senior year and it's the only senior year you get in high school. Just play it and have fun with it.' That's what I try to do and not let it bother me.

A few minutes later, Robbins circled back to the draft.

"It comes in my mind, but when I step out here on the field I just try not to think about it and block it out," he said. "But, yeah, it has been coming through my mind. Whatever happens then happens I guess."

Regardless of what decision he ultimately makes, one thing is certain: It's good to be Walker Robbins right now.

Other thoughts

1. Keeping track: For those keeping track at home, five 2017 Coast football products have gone ahead and committed well ahead of signing day in February: Gautier OL Paul Gainer (Mississippi State), Pascagoula OL/DL James Jackson (Mississippi State), St. Martin WR Kalem Reddix (Southern Miss), St. Stanislaus TE Chase Rogers (Tennessee) and Ocean Springs WR Austin Williams (Mississippi State).

Gainer and Williams were the most recent two to pull the trigger, pledging to the Bulldogs following Saturday's spring game.

That leaves 10 other South Mississippi standouts who currently hold at least one public offer from a four-year school uncommitted: St. Stanislaus WR Corbin Blanchard, St. Stanislaus QB Myles Brennan, Pascagoula RB Reginald Hunter, Pascagoula DE Rasheed Jackson, Biloxi WR Tim Jones, St. Martin QB Wayne Overman III, St. Stanislaus TE Darius Pittman, Harrison Central OL Jacob Shoemaker, Long Beach DL J'arius Warren, Harrison Central QB Tavis Williams.

2. Underrated QB: ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill tweeted out a somewhat cryptic message Monday while watching game film of recruits on Hudl.

"One of the most underrated players in 2017 class. Hint: Plays QB, state starts w/ an 'M', under recruited. #ESPN300"

The grainy game film photo was clear: Luginbill was talking about Brennan.

The two-time Sun Herald Player of the Year already holds 15 offers, with more expected this spring.

Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at pochs@sunherald.com or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.

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