Patrick Ochs

MLB.com's Jim Callis chimes in on Walker Robbins' potential

By Patrick Ochs

pochs@sunherald.com

Now that the final state championships have been played, most seniors will begin to turn their attention to summer trips or college plans.

Not Walker Robbins -- at least not yet.

There's a chance George County's baseball standout could go right into the "workforce" if things shake out a certain way next month.

With the MLB draft set to start June 9, Robbins should be the first Mississippian plucked -- although it may not be until the third round.

"I think he's one of the more intriguing high school, two-way guys in the draft," MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com senior writer Jim Callis told the Sun Herald. "Lefty who can be in the low 90s and has some feel for secondary pitches, but he's going to get drafted as a hitter because I think he's one of the more interesting high school hitters in the country."

Everyday player

While the 6-foot-3, 220-pound southpaw wowed spectators with

his velocity and control on the mound, Callis believes his future will likely be as an everyday player.

South Mississippians saw Robbins gradually improve throughout his prep career, improving his OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) annually from .614 as a freshman to .958, 1.049 and 1.305 the next three seasons. As a senior, Robbins helped lead the Rebels back to the state championship series with a .477 batting average and 13 extra-base hits.

For a big dude, Robbins could try to mash everything and put on show-stopping batting practice displays. While he still has that ability, Callis credited Robbins for his mature approach.

"He's left-handed and although he's a big guy, it's a fairly compact swing," Callis said. "He doesn't sell out and just swing for the fences. You feel like he's going to hit for average. Kind of a flatter swing right now, but I could see him adding some loft. He has bat speed and strength, so he should be at least an average power guy."

Long-term power

While Robbins has plenty of pop for Mississippi's prep ranks, Callis said some teams actually have slight questions about his long-term power once he reaches the professional ranks.

"There's some people who say for a first baseman they're not sure about the power, but I think he's a gifted enough hitter and he has the bat speed and the strength that you can make some adjustments so maybe he'll hit for a little less average and more power," Callis said. "I wouldn't say the power stands out right now because -- and this isn't a criticism -- but he's not trying to jack everything out of the park and showing off. He's more concerned with making consistent, hard contact and he does that."

Making the grade

MLBPipeline.com currently ranks Robbins 91st overall in the upcoming draft class with 55 grades -- on the 20/80 scouting scale -- for hitting and fielding, with 50 power, 60 arm and 40 running for an overall score of 45.

According to MLB.com, the assigned slot values assigned to the third round -- which is where Robbins projects -- range from $813,500 to $563,100.

If the projections hold true, Robbins will have a decision to make as to whether or not to sign and turn pro or go to Mississippi State for three seasons to better his stock.

Robbins previously declined to tip his hand as to what his magic number might be. Instead, he said he was just focused on baseball and would let the process play out.

"Whatever happens, happens," he said.

Next best

The next Mississippi prep products expected to be drafted are two Oxford teammates in Grae Kessinger and Thomas Dillard -- both Ole Miss signees.

Some in the industry have Dillard, the Chargers' power-hitting catcher, as second off the board with Kessinger close behind.

Callis actually leans toward Kessinger, who projects as a multi-dimensional shortstop.

"Once he physically develops he'll get stronger and probably a little quicker. Everybody praises his instincts and loves the makeup," Callis said of Kessinger, who hit .310 as a senior with 14 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases. "You can see some hitting ability, he's just not real physical yet. If he'd sign, I think he'd go maybe a little behind Walker Robbins.

"He could be a third rounder, but I think he'll probably be more of a fourth or fifth rounder and I just don't know if he'll be signable there."

Dillard showed plenty of power in his lone season at OHS, hitting 16 homers -- the national mark in 2016 according to MaxPreps.com. Callis questions his projectability, however.

"The power is interesting, but there's a lot of guys who have produced in Mississippi where people wonder about the competition a little bit," he said. "I think there's enough questions about him as a catcher that I don't know if he goes high enough not to go to Ole Miss."

Callis said an intriguing name to watch is Starkville's A.J. Brown, the Ole Miss signee. An athletic -- albeit raw -- baseball player, Brown's future is likely on the gridiron.

The draft runs June 9-11 and will be broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.com.

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

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