- May 7, 2019: With the Nationals unable to score Victor Robles' throw from right field when Lorenzo Cain snapped a scoreless tie with a bases-loaded double might not have mattered on the scoreboard.
But it mattered to Robles.
Robles missed the cutoff man on the throw in the seventh inning, allowing the Brewers to score three runs on the hit instead of maybe just two. Milwaukee went on to score all of its runs in the same frame in a 6-0 victory over Washington.
"The funny thing about that is that he came up to us after and he says, 'I made a bad throw, I need to hit the cutoff man,'" manager Dave Martinez said Wednesday. "I said, 'Hey, you live and learn. It's a tough lesson, but next time you know, hit the cutoff man.' Simple. But, he gets it."
The 21-year-old Robles, who played in 13 games with Washington in 2017 and 21 games last season, entered '19 as the Nationals' top prospect, as well as the best defensive outfielder, best outfield arm and fastest baserunner in their system, according to Baseball America.
Seeing regular playing time this season, Robles is hitting .263 with six homers and 14 RBIs, along with a team-high eight stolen bases. He also has struck out 41 times in 133 at-bats.
"You're talking about a kid that plays all out, all heart, does everything you ask of him," Martinez said. "Yesterday, he lays down a beautiful bunt and gets on base. He tries to do the little things, tries to perfect everything. You're going to get those moments with him, you are. It's a learning process and he's learning. He's developing really well."
"The biggest thing with him now is just that he's so raw and so good at everything, and he's got power, but once again, we talk about the little things," Martinez said. "And he brings it up, I've got to do the little things today."
- May 12, 2019: Victor Robles was not in the Nationals' starting lineup for the series finale at Dodger Stadium, though manager Dave Martinez insisted it was just a day off for his rookie center fielder and not a punishment for his costly baserunning gaffe the night before.
Robles got himself picked off second base in the first inning of Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Dodgers when he drifted too far off the bag following a walk issued to Juan Soto. Robles believed the umpire had signaled for a timeout following Soto’s walk and began walking toward third base to talk with third-base coach Bobby Henley, according to Martinez. Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes fired the ball to second baseman Kike Hernandez to pick off Robles and turn what would have been bases loaded with no outs for the Nats into runners at the corners with one out. Washington did not score in the inning.
Martinez said he talked to Robles about the mistake, but neither that conversation nor the mistake had anything to do with Robles' day off.
“No, no punishment whatsoever,” Martinez said. “Like I said, he’s a 21-year-old kid that plays really hard. I love the way he plays, I really do.”
Robles’ first full season in D.C. has been a bit of a mixed bag, but nothing if not exciting. He has cooled off since his red-hot start at the plate -- with a slash line of .252/.303/.441 and a 93 OPS+ -- but he has also hit six home runs and has a National League-leading eight stolen bases. He has been worth 0.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.
Robles has been prone to lapses in the field, which have included getting picked off on the bases several times and some misplays in center field.
“I’m going to say this about Robles: I love the kid,” Martinez said. “As we all know, he plays the game the right way, he plays hard. But sometimes the 21-year-old comes out in him. ... It’s gonna happen with a 21-year old. I talked to him, but I said, 'Hey, we need you so keep your head up and keep playing hard.'”
|Birth City:||Santo Domingo, D.R.|
|Draft:||2013 - Nationals - Free agent - Out of the D.R.|
July 2, 2013: Robles signed with the Nationals for $225,000, via scout Carlos Ulloa.
After signing with the Nationals, Victor hit for average and showed base stealing ability in an impressive Dominican Summer League debut. A live-bodied, quick- twitch athlete with a high baseball IQ, Robles plays with energy and is learning to play under control.
His raw tools are tantalizing, and he is a plus-plus runner with plus-plus arm strength and good instincts in centerfield. (Spring 2015)
In 2015, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Robles as the 25th-best prospect in the Nationals organization. Then, they moved Victor all the way up to #3 in the offseason before 2016 spring training.
And Victor was the #1 prospect in the Nationals' organization in both the spring of 2018 and again in 2019.
- Nationals farm director Mark Scialabba has been impressed with the willing approach that the toolsy Robles has taken to instruction.
“He continues to work diligently in all phases of the game and has a desire to continue to learn and grow as player,” Scialabba said. “His dynamic skill set is complemented by his tremendous passion for the game, and his energy is infectious among his teammates.”
Robles is a dynamic, high-energy baseball player who has impressive baseball savvy to go with his outstanding tools. He loves working at the game. And he is a very eager learner.
“Besides having the talent to impact the game with all five tools, he is a sponge with a tremendous work ethic,” farm director Mark Scialabba said in 2016. “He’s very determined the be the best he can be in all phases of the game.”
In 2017, Robles represented the National in the All-Star Futures game.
The phone call left Victor searching for words. He was planning to spend September 2017 in the instructional league to prepare before he was bound for the Arizona Fall League in October. Instead, he was informed he would be headed to the Majors.
"First, you got to kind of earn your stripes," Baker said. "You're here to learn more than you're here to play."
The Nationals organization raves about his defense in center field. "I think they think I have something to offer," Robles said through an interpreter.
The moment was special for Robles, who immediately called his parents after receiving the news of his promotion. They were also at a loss for words and Robles said he could sense his father jumping in the air out of excitement.
"This is definitely what I work for," Robles said. "I definitely was surprised to get called up, so young at 20 years old, but I think I have the ability to help the team out. Hopefully, I help them out in any way with my ability." (Collier - mlb.com - 9/7/17)
2017: Victor was invited to play in the AFL Fall Stars Game. And he was named the MVP of the game.
September 19, 2018: Robles turned on a 90-mph, four-seam fastball from Marlins starter Trevor Richards and drove it just above the 427-foot sign in left-center field.
Robles' first big league homer left the bat with an exit velocity of 105.4 mph, according to Statcast. He hit 28 homers in four-plus Minor League seasons and made his Major League debut on Sept. 7, 2017.
Jan 27, 2019: Robles has the best all-around tools on the Top 100 Prospects Listing, a package that includes plus hitting ability to go with plus-plus defense and arm strength and nearly top-of-the-scale speed.
During his time with the Nationals in 2018, he had a top sprint speed of 29.3 feet per second, according to Statcast—not far behind big league leader Byron Buxton (30.5 feet/second).
- April 28, 2019: The Nationals became the first team in Major League Baseball history to have three players under the age of 22 hit homers in the same game as Juan Soto, 20, Victor Robles, 21, and Kieboom all went deep Sunday against the Padres in a 7-6 11-inning win.
Robles overflows with above-average tools, but what will make him a perennial all-star candidate is his hitting ability, which grades out as plus thanks to his quick hands and pitch recognition. With his 60 grade hit tool, Victor can hit at the top of the lineup. And he has 55 grade power for a whole lot of doubles and 10-15 homers per season.
He opened up his stance a bit in 2018 and can cut himself off at times because of that. He stands on top of the plate, but he generally stays on line well to the ball. Scouts raved about Robles’ ability to hit to all fields, and he did that to a larger extent.
“Offensively, he continues to show the ability to barrel up the ball to all fields with a short, compact stroke with plus bat speed,” Nats' farm director Mark Scialabba said. “He uses his legs to put pressure on the defense with his aggressive running style and will use his plus-plus speed down the line and to steal a base.
“His passion and energy for the game is unique and can be infectious with his teammates,” Scialabba said. “He needs to continue to learn the game, situations, how to harness his energy and must continue to make necessary adjustments as the league adjusts to his strengths. He has the potential to be a catalyst for our club for a long time.” (Spring, 2019)
Victor had experimented with switch-hitting, but now he’s a righthanded hitter with quick hands that produce good bat speed. He tends to overswing at times but is starting to develop some doubles power as he gets stronger. As of now, his short, quick righthanded stroke is more line-drive oriented, but he has shown the ability to hit the ball over the fence, particularly to his pull side. His quick bat speed and advanced two-strike approach have thus far played at every level.
Victor's stance is balanced, but he crowds the plate, giving him coverage of the outer half and daring pitchers to throw inside. They do and he often ends up jogging to first base with a bruise. Only one minor league player was hit by more pitches than Robles (34) back in 2016.
Scouts are split on where Victor's bat can make the most impact. Some see a future leadoff-type hitter with the ability to spray the ball from gap to gap and use his plus-plus speed to take extra bases. Others see Robles, because of his already strong hands and forearms, as a player who will develop enough power to hit in the middle of the order. (Spring, 2018)
Robles’ advanced understanding of the strike zone and ability to recognize pitches have helped his quick hands play in the batter’s box. He is currently an average power hitter but with the strength and bat speed to project more power as he continues to develop physically.
In 2017, Victor was pitched backwards frequently in the Carolina League, which he countered by regularly using the entire field and showing the ability to drive the ball to the right-center field gap. Robles is fearless in the box and sets up very close to the plate.
Robles has the chance to become a perennial all-star. (Carlos Collazo - Baseball America - 11/03/2017)
Robles uses his above-average bat speed to good effect, though he can get a little big in his swing and greedy in his attempts to drive the ball with impact. His combination of bat speed and strength gives him a shot at above-average power potential with a plus hit tool.
Victor impacts the game offensively, defensively and on the bases. He plays with a lot of energy and passion, along with poise, which separates him from a lot of other players. (Spring, 2017)
Using the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents Major League average, we project Robles as a 60 hitter with 50 power, 70 speed, 65 arm strength and 60 defense in center field. That package, which equates to a .280 hitter with 15-18 homers and 30 steals plus potential Gold Glove defense, helped him rank No. 8 on the Spring, 2017 Top 100 Prospect, behind seven prospects who are closer to reaching their own considerable ceilings.
The sum of Robles' five tools adds up to 305. For comparison's sake, Byron Buxton had the highest total on last year's Top 100 at 340, with Robles coming in second at 300. Mike Trout's sum was 335 when he was a prospect. And Bo Jackson's would have been 370—almost certainly the highest in the draft era. Bo knew tools. (MLBPipeline.com )
September 2015: Robles was named by MLB.com as the best hitting prospect in the Nationals' organization.
“He has a very advanced feel for the strike zone, a high baseball IQ and a passion for the game,” Nats farm director Mark Scialabba said.
“We’ve just been impressed with his ability to square up the ball—you can’t get a fastball by him,” said one NYP manager, before adding: “He is kind of aggressive when it comes to the fastball. If you throw the rosin bag hard, he’s probably going to swing at it.”
Victor stays balanced and uses his lower half well in his swing. He has quick, explosive hands, staying inside the ball. He controls the strike zone, displaying very good pitch recognition, so expect Robles to develop into a high-batting average guy with a significantly higher on-base-percentage.
More power is on the way. Some of those gap hits will be leaving the yard with the extension Robles generates through the ball and he physically matures. His approach at the plate continues to evolve.
He’s always striving to learn and understand situations—for example, when he can be aggressive and take the extra base (or) when he should make throws to certain bags.
He sets up very close to the plate, which allows him to cover the outer half of the plate well, but also results in him often being hit by pitches. He is confident in his ability to turn on inside pitches, but after his stint on the disabled list after being hit by a Michael Kopech pitch on the thumb in Aug., 2016, he is also starting to learn about the importance of getting out of the way of inside pitches.
But he is so fearless. He likes standing in there -- it is his plate and he lets the opposition know right away that he is in charge, displaying poise. He gets hit by a lot of pitches.
2017 season: Robles handled the advanced pitchers in the EL with aplomb by lowering his strikeout rate to 14 percent while continuing to walk at fair clip and hit for a high average. Robles impressed the Nationals enough to earn his first big league callup in September and made the postseason roster as well.
Called up to the show, Victor went 6-for-24 (.250) with a double, two triples and four RBIs in 13 games during the regular season for Washington, showcasing his elite speed on the base paths.
He entered as a pinch-runner and scored on Bryce Harper's game-tying home run in the eighth inning of the post season Nationals' Game 2 win over the Cubs. The phenom batted .289 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 77 games for Class A Advanced Potomac, before hitting .324 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 37 games for Harrisburg upon a promotion to Double-A.
Robles has always hit for average in the minors and has posted excellent on-base percentages, in part because he crowds the plate and often gets plunked—he has been hit 93 times in 384 games, as of the start of the 2019 season.
But Robles’ exit velocities have consistently been mediocre at best. In two short stints in the major leagues, Robles’ average exit velocity on batted balls is 82.5 mph, which is nearly five mph less than the major league average.
Victor's average exit velocity in the minors has ranged between 84 and 85 mph. That’s better, but not by much and that’s still in the range that could cause concern.
Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Nelson Cruz are consistently among MLB’s leaders with 93-94 mph average exit velocities. The best player in baseball, Mike Trout, has averaged 91 mph over the past four seasons. Anyone in the 90 mph and up range is consistently stinging the ball when they make contact.
Unless Robles significantly improves how hard he hits the ball, he’s more likely to need to find success as a hitter who sprays the ball around and uses his legs more than one who produces big power. It’s not a disqualifying factor for a prospect with other tools like Robles has, but it is a risk factor. (J.J. Cooper - Baseball America - March, 2019)
- April 28, 2019: Victor, Juan Soto, and Carter Kieboom made history against the Padres, becoming the first trio of teammates aged 21 or younger to homer in the same game in MLB history, according to Elias.
Victor is an excellent athlete with quick-twitch athleticism. With well above-average speed and a very strong arm, Robles has the ingredients to play center field in a way that could lead to a Gold Glove or three. He’s a high-energy player with elite athleticism. Robles gets good jumps and makes an impact out there with excellent range.
Robles is very young and still needs some refinement, but his upside is significant. And he already has very good reads and uses his double-plus speed to catch up with the ball in either gap. (Spring 2016)
He has impressive closing speed on balls hit in his area. He makes some diving grabs for the videos.
Victor has a 60-65 arm. But with his speed, it would be wasted on right field.
He gets a 60 for his fielding/defense.
2016 scouting report: Robles may have the best all-around tools in the Minors, and his defensive ability is a big part of that. He has well above-average speed and the arm strength to match, and he already shows a lot of polish for a 19-year-old.
Robles improved the most in 2017 in the outfield, where he improved his jumps and routes. He also made strides with his throwing accuracy.
He’s always had the tools to develop into a premier defensive center fielder, with well above-average speed and a plus arm, and he’s now taking the steps to become more efficient. (Spring, 2018)
He not only has plus-plus speed but also the arm strength to match. While he could cruise on natural ability, he has worked diligently to improve his reads, routes and throwing accuracy. "He's a game-changing defender," a National League farm director said, "with both his arm and his glove."
2017: Robles was named the best defensive outfielder in Minor League Baseball by MLB Pipeline. The other two joining him in the outfield were Cristian Pache and Leody Taveras.
- During 2018 spring training, Nationals manager Davey Martinez compared Robles with Andrew McCutchen because of the way both glide in the outfield.
“To be compared to a great ballplayer, how do you not feel great about that?” Victor said.
- Robles landed on the MLB Pipeline All-Defense Team for 2016, 2017, and 2018. (Jonathan Mayo- MLB.com)
Victor has put in the time to improve his base-running. And it is valuable at disrupting the opponents, because Robles has plus-plus 70 grade speed, on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Speed is Robles’ loudest tool, and he ranked in the 95th percentile of major leaguers this season with a sprint speed of 29.3 feet per second, according to Statcast. That running ability has allowed him to rack up 129 stolen bases over five minor league seasons (at a 74 percent success rate) and should allow him to become a headache for major league batteries. (Spring, 2019)
Robles still needs to refine his instincts on the bases. (Spring, 2018)
Once the Washington Nationals' dugout got a glimpse of Victor's speed in action, it was instantly impressed. When Robles hit his first triple in the Nationals' 5-2 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park, it prompted Bryce Harper to turn to Trea Turner, who up to that point had been the undisputed fastest player on the club.
"He just kind of told him, 'Ah, don't worry about it, you're still the fastest guy here,'" Robles said through an interpreter.
On his triple in the fourth inning, Robles sprinted from home to third in 11.12 seconds, the fastest time for any Nationals player since Statcast began tracking in 2015. It narrowly beat out a triple by Turner on July 24, 2016, when he reached third base in 11.14 seconds.
"Robles's lightning fast. He's just like Trea," Tanner Roark said. "He's been big for us so far. He's really taken advantage of the opportunity whenever he's gotten the chance to go out there and show his stuff." (Collier - mlb.com - 9/14/17)
He plays with great energy and aggression, which can hurt him at times, particularly on the bases where he needs to improve his decision-making and base-stealing ability, though that might be the only part of his game to nitpick.(Spring, 2018)
- 2018: Robles' near elite sprint speed of 29.3 feet per second was the second-best Statcast™ among Nats big leaguers last season, trailing only Trea Turner (30.1). Those wheels make the 21-year-old a true burner out of the righthanded batter's box as well as in center field, where he has range for days. On the base paths, Robles is an aggressive but unrefined base-stealer with a 74 percent success rate (129 steals in 174 attempts) in five Minor League seasons.
August 2016: Robles missed time after getting hit in the thumb by a fastball from Salem fireballer Michael Kopech, but he lifted his batting average by 48 points in the final two weeks.
- April 10-July 27 2018: Victor was on the DL with a severely hyperextended left elbow. He dove awkwardly and landed hard on his left arm.
- May 17, 2019: Nationals outfielder Victor Robles was removed in the fourth inning of the night game against the Cubs, one inning after he was hit on the left forearm by an errant pitch from Cole Hamels. After X-rays came back negative, Robles was diagnosed with a left wrist contusion.