Robinson started all 68 games for the Florida State Seminoles in center field as a freshman, while batting .280. As a sophomore, he led the team with a .427 batting average, 96 runs, 122 hits, 25 doubles, .605 slugging %, .532 on base % and 49 stolen bases. He also set a school record by having a 40 game hitting streak. His breakout effort earned him the 2005 Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year, the first Seminole to win the award since J.D. Drew in 1997. He was also named SEBaseball.com's ACC Player of the Year and was a candidate for every National Player of the Year honor. His numbers declined as a junior but he still put together a solid season by leading the Seminoles with a .361 average, 97 hits, 79 runs and 32 stolen bases.
Robinson was drafted by the Cardinals in the fifth round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft out of Florida State University. He collected his first hit during his first game on June 22 against the Peoria Chiefs while hitting safely in his first six games, going 12-for-28 (.429) with two doubles and two RBIs. He compiled a 21-game hitting streak from July 2–26, batting .372 (32-for-86) with a triple, three doubles, nine RBIs and 17 runs scored. He hit .286 and scored 36 runs in 48 games out of the leadoff spot.
In 2007, he began the season with Class A Advanced Palm Beach County in the Florida State League and stole a career-high 14 bases and hit .364 (8-for-22) with a home run and six runs scored during a six-game hitting streak from April 10–15. He batted .294 (15-for-51) with a .379 on-base percentage in 14 games in May before heading to the disabled list with a broken foot. On August 20 he began a rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and collected two hits against the GCL Mets on Aug. 21. He hit safely in all four games with Palm Beach County upon his return from the GCL. In 2008 he hit .352 with four homers, 46 runs scored, 32 RBIs and 13 steals in 63 games with Double-A Springfield of the Texas League. On June 22 he was promoted to triple-A Memphis and finished the season hitting .220 with 10 RBIs and 10 runs scored in 42 games. On May 7, 2009 he had his contract purchased from Triple-A Memphis after Rick Ankiel was placed on the disabled list. He made his major league debut that day.