The Runner Sports

Pride Of Chuckie: Astros Harboring Scary Catching Prospect, Chuckie Robinson

In a world where a helmeted opponent can use a club to send a well-aimed missile over a far-off fence, one man lurks in the shadows, covered with armor and wearing a mask. That man is Chuckie Robinson, and he’s sending a signal to anyone who would harm a teammate’s ERA. Today, it’s the Midwest League, but tomorrow, it could be the Carolina League. But one day, he knows it’ll be Houston. This time, it’s personal.

The Quad Cities River Bandits (full season Class A affiliate) clinched the second half Midwest League Western Division crown, August 27. The Bandits’ catcher, Chuckie Robinson, led the comeback with a three-run homer in the 3rd inning of the eventual 9-6 win. Robinson, 5’11”, 225 lbs, has been just that kind of leader, all season, from his backstop position.

September 16, the Bandits won the best-of-five 2017 Midwest League Championship, over the Fort Wayne (IN) TinCaps, in a 12-2 thumping at home. Robinson hit a round-tripper, his fourth in the postseason, as part of a 4-hit game, a triple short of a cycle. He earned Midwest League Championship Series MVP in the process.

The right-hand hitting Robinson led the Bandits in batting average with .274 in the regular season, while finishing tied for second in the league with 32 doubles, just one behind the leader. Mostly batting third in the Bandits’ lineup (and putting in time as occasional DH), Robinson cashed in 77 runs, ending up tied for second in the Midwest League, 5 behind the league’s leading RBI man. He slashed an impressive .274/.330/.463, in 430 ABs, while stealing 7 of 8 bases.

Blood Ties

Claiming music produced in the decade of his birth as his go-to, the 22-year-old Robinson was born in Danville, IL, and proudly claims “Return of the Mack” by Mark Robinson (1996) as his walk-up jam.

A third generation catcher, Chuckie’s dad, Charles, Jr., spent minor league time as a backstop with both the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs. His grandfather, Chuckie, Sr., was also a catcher, and spent time in the early 1960s in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Chuckie attended Danville High School, alma mater to comic acting brothers, Jerry and Dick Van Dyke, and Oscar-winning actor, Gene Hackman (The French Connection, 1971).

At Danville, Robinson led the Vikings with a .372 BA, and stole a team-high 11 bases, setting a school career records for homers with 19. In his junior season, he was named the Vikings’ MVP, as well as a local paper’s Player of the Year award.

Robinson chose Southern Mississippi as his university of choice, and majored in Business Administration.

In his 3 years at Southern Miss, Robinson racked up a .259 batting average in 317 ABs, with 10 doubles and 10 homers, with 59 RBI. His 3-year OPS ended up at .718.

Video: Watch Chuckie Robinson tag out the would-be tying run in the 9th inning, clinching the C-USA title over Houston’s Rice University just days before he was drafted 

Houston drafted Robinson out of Southern Miss in the 21st round (637th overall) of the 2016 draft, and signed him for $100,000. The summer before his junior year, though, found Robinson turning in 139 ABs in the New England Collegiate League with the Ocean State Waves out of Wakefield, Rhode Island. He hit .259, with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 9 home runs, with 28 RBI. Walking 14 times against 30 strikeouts, he managed to amass an .882 OPS.

It Came From Behind the Plate

Perfect Game USA logged this early scouting report on Robinson at a PG showcase in February, 2013, during his senior year at Danville High: “Large, strongly built athlete. Shows soft hands behind the plate, and quality receiving skills. Above average arm strength, short arm action, very accurate and consistent with his throws. Right-handed hitter, hits from a wide base, uses a toe tap trigger, power hitting approach. Shows excellent present power, doesn’t get cheated at the plate, knows how to use the opposite field. Makes consistent solid contact, shows good bat speed and looks to lift the ball, gets good extension out front. Very strong hitter. Good student.”

Three years hence, Robinson’s USM head coach, Scott Berry, a former college catcher himself, sings his praises of Chuckie, pre-draft: “He brings a great defensive presence to the game for us,” said Berry. “A lot of people talk about his arm strength, but I think more importantly his ability to work with pitchers, and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. He’s right there at the top (in Conference USA) in receiving and blocking pitches, but he also helps the pitchers call their game, and understands the adjustments they have to make; he does an outstanding job with that.”

Robinson even gave his own personal scouting report to WhattheheckBobby’s Jayne Hansen in July, 2016, when Chuckie was beginning his pro career with Houston’s Class-A Tri-City ValleyCats (New York-Penn League): “Above-average arm, I need to work on my receiving, and be a little more quiet in my stance when I’m catching. I have power potential, but I need to be more consistent at the plate. And, I hustle a lot.”

The Others

In trading catcher Jake Rogers to Detroit in the Justin Verlander deal, Robinson ascends the depth chart. While Houston is blessed with a couple upper-level prospects nearing their MLB debuts (Garrett Stubbs, in particular, currently the 10th-ranked Houston prospect), 2018 could easily see Robinson splitting the season between the Astros’ Advanced-A Buies Creek affiliate and Double-A Corpus Christi.

Related: Garrett Stubbs: Tech Geek in a Catcher’s Mask

With his bloodlines and natural defensive and throwing abilities, the bat is progressing at a rapid enough rate for a Top 30 prospect ranking to be well within Robinson’s reach in 2018, as well.

One thing we know for certain: For Chuckie, catching is not child’s play.

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

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Brad Kyle