My Day at Spring Training: Hansel Robles

Hansel Robles throws a bullpen session during a perfect day in Port St. Lucie. Photo: Stephen Guilbert
After Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard wowed fans with their warm-ups, and well after Curtis Granderson worked off the tee and Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores exchanged shots in the batting cage, pitching prospect Hansel Robles took the mound in a bullpen area between practice fields in Port St. Lucie.

While fans closely followed every movement of Harvey and Syndergaard, the crowd completely dispersed once they had finished--following the two phenoms to a larger practice field where they would later throw live batting practice. In fact, just Preston, my long time friend and current Port St. Lucie native, and I stayed. In the meantime, Robles began warming up where Harvey and Syndergaard had just been throwing.

Robles did some drills I had never seen before. He threw without use of his lower body with his torso facing home plate, then moved well behind the mound and threw to his catcher with his body at a perpendicular angle to the plate. He did all of this with great velocity and his upper body mimicking a real pitch. The exercises were fascinating--I think they might have to do with upper body warmup, release point consistency, and body control, though someone with better experience could probably tell us better.

One of the throwing drills Robles completed before his bullpen session. Photo: Stephen Guilbert

Then he began throwing full windup and stretch windup pitches and the reaction I had to those pitches was the same when I saw Robles nearly throw a no-hitter for Brooklyn back in 2012--he is simply an electric pitcher.

While the Mets converted him to a relief role this past season and his future is in the bullpen, I cannot help but get excited about Robles. His arm strength is so good, his slider seems to flutter like a magician is controlling it, and his athleticism is impressive by any standard. In fact, since his bullpen was delayed a bit, he didn't reach his running drills until after his group had already ran. The coaches waited and Robles did not disappoint. In the wind sprints portion, a coach let out an audible "woop!" in encouragement for the effort Robles was putting in. And he was moving fast--not by a pitcher's standards--for any baseball player. He nearly tripped himself up from coming off the line so quickly.

Side note: As a fan, moments like this were very cool--I did not see Robles coming behind me while I was watching Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Cody Satterwhite do their running drills. By the time he was next to me, I instinctively blurted out "That was some nice throwing back there". To my surprise, Robles smiled and responded with a polite, "Thank you", as if he didn't realize anyone had actually seen it.

I have no idea what the future holds for this young man. He is older for a prospect, is already a converted starter-to-reliever, and faces an uphill battle in breaking into a team that has no shortage of young righties just like him--athletic, big fastballs, good pure 'stuff'. However, this is not the first time Hansel Robles has made my jaw drop with his stuff. I do hope the conversion to a relief role proves beneficial to him because I really like this guy.

Next up: David Wright is the New York Mets, and why.



Thomas Brennan said...

Another marvelous update, Stephen. I learned more about Robles from your write up than from almost anything else I've read about him.

Robles may join an elite Mets bullpen later this year, in my opinion – he was great once he was switched to AA pen mid season and followed it with a great winter league effort.

Stephen Guilbert said...

Thanks so much, Thomas. I hope Robles has a future with this team and gets the opportunity to show what he can do. I agree the move to the bullpen was a smart one and I think his stuff plays up even more in shorter outings. He's definitely high on my watch list for 2015 Met prospects.

Mack's Mets © 2012