Minor League Player Spotlight: Cards' Sem Robberse

April 27th, 2024

For Cardinals fans, there is a glimmer of hope that things might be turning around in the not-so-distant future.

Sem Robberse opened the season at the Minors' highest level and has been nothing short of dominant thus far. The right-hander has yielded two runs or fewer in each of his first five starts this year and with the organization's top prospect Tink Hence not far behind in Double-A, the moment -- and the opportunity -- is not lost on the native of Zeist, Netherlands.

"We don't mention [the future] too much, but it's definitely for sure in the back of our minds -- that we are able to set the tone in the big leagues some day," Robberse told a panel of Greg Amsinger, Dan Plesac and Tom Verducci on MLB Tonight. "But right now we just keep working every day in order to get to that spot, and I think we're on the right track."

The Cardinals' No. 12 prospect is undoubtedly on the right track as he is this week's Minor League Player Spotlight in the International League after posting a 1.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and .202 batting-average-against over his first five starts for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

"I’ve been working a lot on being consistent with my pitches," Robberse said on MLB Network. "Putting [the ball] in the spots where it plays best. And especially my mix is what I rely on the most. Being able to keep them off balance and not let them be able to sit on anything and be able to throw anything for a strike in any count helps me a lot."

The early returns on the adjustments that the 22-year-old has made are nothing short of bullish. Robberse finished last season with Memphis and posted a 4.84 ERA and .279 average against with 24 walks over eight appearances (35 1/3 innings). Over 29 2/3 frames this year, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has 29 strikeouts to six walks -- having never allowed more than a pair of walks in a single start.

He twirled the best start of his career on April 19 against Gwinnett when he yielded one run (unearned) on one hit and two walks while tying a career-high nine punchouts over a career-long eight innings. Robberse credits his refined arsenal for the early success.

"I throw a fastball, cutter, changeup, slider. And I like to use the cutter a lot just to keep them off the fastball and protect the slider as well," he explained. "And the cutter and changeup combination versus lefties is usually what I go for -- and then mix in the slider and the fastball where I need it."

Robberse was signed out of the Netherlands by the Blue Jays in 2019. After spending parts of four seasons in Toronto's system, the 22-year-old was dealt to St. Louis in the Jordan Hicks trade at the 2023 Deadline. That year Robberse was selected to the Futures Game. He also pitched a scoreless inning in this year's Spring Breakout for the Cardinals against the Marlins.

Robberse said he grew up watching the Yankees, as they were the most popular team in the Netherlands at the time, but when it came down to learning how to pitch, the righty and his father looked north of the Bronx to Cooperstown.

"Me and my dad used to look up pitchers, Hall of Famers, to see how they were throwing. How they were pitching and how they were able to last that long," Robberse said. "And my dad taught me my mechanics by looking at Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, those guys. And that's how he basically taught me my mechanics and it's still sticking with me."