PEORIA, Ariz.— About any pro evaluator, you meet will tell you that Lake Elsinore Storm outfielder Robbie Podorsky is too small, 5-foot-7, and at 24-years old is too old for the California League.
And Robbie can really care less about that opinion.
“I am very familiar with the underdog role and took it as a challenge,” said Podorsky at the end of Spring Training on how he reacted on not making last year’s Low-A Fort Wayne TinCaps’ squad out of Spring Training despite hitting .325/.397/.428 in 2017 between the AZL Padres and Tri-City Dust Devils in his first year of professional baseball.
“I tunnel-visioned myself into working on things that I needed to improve; like my throwing, working on base-stealing and my approach at the plate. Trying to refine the things that are going to help me in the long-run.
“You can’t give into the negative distractions that are out there [Extended Spring], you have to come in and work on the things that are going to make you better.”
It helped him pretty well in Fort Wayne, where he was electric. He didn’t join the club until mid-May but posted a ridiculous .366/.420/.463 line with 23 stolen bases in 28 attempts in just 57 games. His speed was game-changing, and he puts the ball in play 90 percent of the time, and his energy level is off the charts.
As we wrote in the wrap-up for the 2018 TinCaps, if you find joy in watching baseball, you’ll love Podorsky.
The only problem with what otherwise was a great season was that he suffered severe lower back spasms which put him on the injured list for the last month of the season.
“I must have tweaked it from diving or something. I had muscle spasms that wouldn’t go down. It’s a lot of small muscles, stretching and really being aware of what position my body is in at all times.
“It does wear on you and because of that structural damage, it’s always going to be there. My entire offseason was geared to being more proactive on my body, figuring out how to fix it.”
Podorsky was a twenty-fifth round draft pick out of McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana after transferring from University of Louisiana-Monroe and then a junior college, where he posted a slash line of .319/.397/.455 with 39 stolen bases in 44 attempts in his last season.
In the top-rated minor league organization in baseball, Podorsky might be the fastest as one of the Padres’ development staff noted, anything hit on the left side of the infield is going to be close.
In 121 pro games, Podosky has stolen 48 bases in 60 attempts.
“I do think it’s a little bit of an art form. To be honest, in college I was just a straight speed guy. As soon as the pitcher would lift up his foot, I would go. Nobody could get me.
“As soon as I got into pro ball, things changed because pitchers are better at holding you on and catchers are quicker and more accurate. I start to look at different “tells” that pitchers use whether it is the angle of their glove or how their feet are positioned.
“It starts by watching them in warm-ups and watching them every chance that you get. Sometimes you can’t find a tell, but they are slow enough that the minute they pick up that front foot you are going to be safe.
“But that doesn’t happen as much.”
Defensively, he has seen time in left and center field, although he may have enough of an arm to also play in right field.
“When he’s healthy he is a well-rounded player on both sides of the ball – and he will perform,” said San Geaney, the Padres’ Senior Director of Player Development at the end of last year.
The Padres may have their best outfield in the system in Lake Elsinore with Tirso Ornelas, Jeisson Rosario, and Jack Suwinski, but if Podorsky is even close to the numbers he has posted as a professional, he will play.
Despite hitting .366 last year, Podorsky saw areas of his game that he could improve.
“I swung at too many balls and was overaggressive at the plate. I’m a smaller guy and my job is to get on base and steal. I’m trying to refine my approach at the plate to be a little more selective, take more borderline pitches and be ok with being called out on strike three sometimes.
“That is probably the biggest offensive adjustment that I need to make. If you are thinking in the batter’s box you are screwed because you are never going to catch up to the fastball. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but it is coming along nicely.”
However, that’s not his biggest goal going into 2019.
“The biggest thing is that I want to grow more as a person. I played in three big league Spring Training games this year and it amazed me how humble, personable and how nice all these guys are.
“That is the biggest thing I took from it. These guys are so welcoming and are mature men. To be successful at that level and have a career there – or really in anything -you have to become that type of person.”