Victor Robles’ impressive Sunday shows a glimpse of what’s to come for the Washington Nationals
Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline came and went on Monday as the Washington Nationals made one move to acquire reliever Brandon Kintzler from the Minnesota Twins for lefty pitcher Tyler Watson. Harrisburg fans breathed a sigh of relief however as Victor Robles, the Nationals’ top rated prospect who played his first four games on City Island this past weekend, wasn’t swapped as part of any deal.
Robles is the prototypical five tool player and Sunday almost all of them were on display for the Senators faithful at FNB Field as the outfielder went 2-for-4 at the plate to raise his batting average to .231 in only seven games at Double-A.
“He has already gotten us some big hits in a short period of time that he’s been here,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “He’s still a work in progress but you can see what everyone raves about.”
Robles had a number of firsts as he hit his first home run and stole his first base at this level. In his second at-bat of the game, he showed the easy pop that he generates with his lightning quick wrists as he launched a ball out of the park to the right of the ribbon board in left field. His stolen base came late in the game to get into scoring position before eventually scoring an insurance run on a sacrifice fly.
“The thing that has impressed me the most is how hard he plays,” LeCroy said. “He backs up every play, he moves on every pitch. He works extremely hard every day.”
Throughout the four-game series against the Portland Sea Dogs, Robles showed some quick reads and jumps coupled with his speed and route efficiency to track down balls all over FNB Field’s spacious center field. The only thing we haven’t seen from the Dominican yet in his short time with the Senators is the strength and accuracy of his arm. But LeCroy noted that has looked good in previous games and practice: “Defensively, he has thrown the ball really well and down.”
For all that, what impressed the most on Sunday was his first and last at-bat of the game when he flew out to left field and drew a walk, respectively.
Leading off the Senators’ half of the first, Robles found himself in an early 0-2 hole. The 20-year-old showed maturity beyond his age as he fouled off pitches that he couldn’t do anything with and held up on breaking balls out of the strike zone down and away. He worked the count back to full and on the ensuing pitch was caught a little off-balance as he basically hit a one-handed fly ball that carried all the way to the warning track in left field. Fifteen feet to the left and it lands in the Ollie’s Cheap Seats and he has his first home run in Double-A. Instead it was just the first out of the game, but one that showed the type of dynamic hitter he can be at the top of the lineup.
“He doesn’t have a whole lot of at-bats yet, but we’ve seen glimpses where he has seven, eight, nine-pitch at-bats which for anybody is pretty impressive but for especially getting down in the count early and not really changing his approach,” hitting coach Brian Rupp said. “We preach that two-strike toughness and being a tough out. He is able to take those nasty ones and get enough to foul them off and work himself back into a count. To be 20 and be able to do that is pretty impressive.”
His last at-bat was similar to his first. He fell behind 1-2, even getting hit on the right hand while trying to bunt for a base hit, before he held up on two breaking balls in the dirt and checked his swing on one up and in to draw the leadoff walk in the eighth inning.
“He’s a kid that loves to play, you can just tell and he always has a smile on his face,” Rupp said. “He didn’t come in trying to do too much or anything, but it’s human nature he wants to prove he belongs. You can really see him settle in a little bit and have other parts of his game that are starting to show now.”
Robles’ talent has the 20-year-old knocking on the door of the Major Leagues. After the Nationals declined to include him any trade package on Monday, clearly they also see he is their centerfielder of the very near future.