ROBBIE ERLIN, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 8, 1990
Drafted: 3rd Round, 93rd Overall, 2009 (Rangers)
How Acquired: Minor league free agent
High School: Scotts Valley (CA) HS
Agent: Sosnick Cobbe & Karon
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|The Rangers drafted Erlin as a very polished prep lefty, with an average fastball, a good curve and a developing change. His biggest strength has always been good command. He moved quickly through the lower minors, with impressive walk and K rates, but AAA hitters found it much easier to make contact against him than lower level hitters did. He also had elbow problems, missing time in 2012, 2014 and 2015. He finally had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed most of that year and all of the next. The Padres, to whom Texas had traded him in 2011, finally moved Erlin mostly to relief after he returned. His pattern as a starter had always suggested he might be better in the bullpen, as opponents had a .680 OPS against him the first time through the lineup and .824 the second. Erlin did in fact pitch much better in relief in 2018, but struggled in 2019.
Erlin is somewhat of a flyball pitcher, although not an extreme one, and he’s had some issues with gopher balls. He has not had a platoon split in the majors, allowing a .722 OPS to right-handed hitters and .757 to left-handed hitters. In the majors, Erlin’s fastball has generally been 90-91 mph; he did not gain velocity with the move to relief. He started throwing a sinker in 2018 and throws it about as often as his four-seamer. He throws a curve and change, and occasionally a slider or cutter. The curve is probably his best pitch. He doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses, and doesn’t walk many hitters. The Pirates signed Erlin to a minor league deal for 2020.
Erlin debuted briefly in rookie ball.
Texas moved Erlin up to full season ball, where he pitched both as a starter and in relief. He had an impressive season, with opponents batting only 213/249/325 against him. Baseball America ranked him fourth in the Rangers’ system after the season.
Erlin moved up to high A and dominated in nine starts, walking very few while allowing opponents just a .132 average. He had more trouble in AA, with opponents batting .282, although he continued walking very few and had a solid K rate. The Rangers traded him to San Diego at the deadline and he pitched a little better in AA afterward. He had some gopher ball problems, allowing 18 on the year. BA rated him eighth in the Padres’ system.
Erlin missed three months of the season, from May until August with elbow tendonitis. When he pitched in AA, he was still effective. He gave up about a hit per inning, but he showed good control and had a high K rate. BA rated him tenth in the system.
Erlin started off in AAA, but got added to the roster and called up briefly in April for two relief appearances. He was called up three other times. He ended up making 20 starts in AAA and nine, along with the two relief appearances, in the majors. He got hit fairly hard in AAA, with opponents batting .298. Some allowance has to be made, though, for the fact that he was playing in a high-offense environment for Tucson in the Pacific Coast League. He was also hurt by a low strand rate of 65.7%. In the majors, opponents hit a much lower .250 and he continued to show very good control, although he didn’t miss a lot of bats.
Erlin started the season in the Padres’ rotation, but beginning in mid-May he missed over two months with a sore elbow. He eventually worked his way through a rehab and returned for several late-season starts. Opponents generally made contact against him in the majors, batting .286.
San Diego sent Erlin to AAA to start the season and he didn’t pitch in the majors except for three September starts. He also missed most of July. He again struggled in AAA, with opponents batting .291 and hitting 22 home runs.
Erlin opened the season in San Diego and pitched very well through his first two outings, but he struggled in his third and then went out with an elbow strain. He eventually had Tommy John surgery.
Erlin missed the season following the surgery.
Erlin spent the season in the majors. He pitched mostly in relief until late in the year, when he moved to the rotation. He ended up making a dozen starts and 27 relief appearances. Erlin was dramatically more effective in relief: opponents hit 311/331/483 against him as a starter and 210/223/315 as a reliever.
Erlin spent most of the season in the majors, but was optioned to high A once and AAA several times. He pitched in relief for the Padres except for one, two-inning start. He wasn’t generally effective, with opponents batting .312 against him, although he did improve his K rate. His xFIP (4.14) was considerably better than his ERA, as he was hurt by a high batting average on balls in play (.373) and a slightly low strand rate (65.3%). The Padres outrighted him after the season and he opted for free agency.
Erlin will be in major league spring training; given the Pirates’ shortage of LHPs, he probably has a good chance of making the team. He has the ability to opt out of his contract if he’s not on the opening day roster.
UPDATE: Shortly before the truncated season got underway, the Pirates added Erlin to the 40-man roster. He doesn’t provide much upside, but he’s cheap.
|2020: Minor league contract
|Signing Bonus: $425,000
MiLB Debut: 2009
MLB Debut: 4/30/2013
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2020
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 4/24/2013
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2013, 2015, 2019)
MLB Service Time: 5.045
|June 10, 2009: Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 3rd round, 93rd overall pick; signed on July 29.
July 31, 2011: Traded by the Texas Rangers with Joe Wieland to the San Diego Padres for Mike Adams.
April 24, 2013: Contract purchased by the San Diego Padres.
October 31, 2019: Outrighted to AAA by the San Diego Padres; refused assignment and elected free agency.
January 29, 2020: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
July 21, 2020: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.