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Washington Nationals' Clint Robinson brings his short, level, compact swing back to D.C.

Clint Robinson might have been the surprise of the year for the disappointing Washington Nationals in 2015. The 30-year-old rookie, and veteran of eight minor league seasons, signed as a free agent last winter and hung around all season long, but what does 2016 hold?

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Robinson finished up his first full major league campaign with a .284/.360/.409 run over the final month-plus of the season, which saw the 30-year-old rookie hit two doubles and three of his ten 2015 home runs in his last 100 plate appearances.

After eight minor league seasons with Kansas City, Toronto and Los Angeles and their respective minor league affiliates, Robinson, who started the year with just fourteen major league plate appearances, stuck with Washington all season after signing a free agent deal with the Nationals last winter.

He made the Nats' major league roster out of Spring Training, put up a .272/.358/.422 line in a 0.4 fWAR campaign, appeared in 126 games and collected 352 plate appearances.

"Last year was kind of a crash course for me. I don't really think I was in the best of shape to take on left field during the summer months in Washington..." -Clint Robinson on learning to play left field on the fly in 2015

Now-former manager Matt Williams talked about what allowed Robinson to have success hitting wherever he's played after the first baseman/left fielder hit his eighth home run of the year (a 438 foot blast to right) off Miami Marlins' right-hander Jose Fernandez on September 18th in Nationals Park.

"I just think it's a short swing," Williams said. "So somebody like Jose, if he throws you a fastball he's going to provide all the power that you need and a short, level compact swing will do the trick. He didn't swing hard at that ball and it went in the upper deck."

Robinson talked this winter about ending the year in a good place in terms of his swing.

He finished the year with hits in ten of his last eleven games, ranked third among National League rookies in on-base percentage, third in walks (37) and 10th in slugging percentage.

"I think I ended the season on a pretty good note," Robinson said this winter. "I felt pretty good with what I did the whole second half."

After a .275/.345/.423 first half in which he hit eight doubles and four home runs in 165 plate appearances, Robinson put up a .269/.369/.425 line with seven doubles and six home runs in 187 PAs after the break.

"I felt like I was in a good spot," he reiterated when asked if he would change anything about his approach as he prepped for 2016.

"Don't really need to mess with anything right now. I'm sure once that first week of Spring Training, that first bad round of batting practice I'm sure I'll change something real quick," he joked.

What he said he was focused on this winter, was getting in better shape for the rigors of a full major league season, with a focus on his conditioning and agility on the defensive end.

"Last year was kind of a crash course for me," Robinson said of learning to play the outfield on the fly in the majors after having played just ten games away from first base in his minor league career.

"I don't really think I was in the best of shape to take on left field during the summer months in Washington, so I've taken the proper course to kind of slim down a little bit maybe, work on my conditioning," he explained.

"As a first baseman I didn't really worry about getting winded or my legs getting tired cause it wasn't all that much to it, but like I said, in those middle months, when you're in Game 120, and it's hot outside and those legs are dragging, that can affect your defense, so I've definitely been geared more toward conditioning and slimming down so I can move a little better if I need to play the outfield."

"Now it's just go out there and get my work in to prepare myself for the season, it won't be so much of, 'Oh, crap.' Because that's kind of what it was last year." -Clint Robinson on knowing what to expect in 2016

Though it took some getting used to, Robinson said he started to feel comfortable in the outfield as the season went on and he got some positive reinforcement from a now-former member of the Nationals' coaching staff.

"Towards the second half I felt like I made really good strides. Tony Tarasco, I don't know if he was just trying to keep my spirits high or whatnot, but he told me that he was really proud of me, that I had done a pretty good job.

"I know there are different kind of stats for how you play defense nowadays with all the sabermetrics and all that, but I felt like I was at least competent out there most of the time.

"This year, coming in, I'll definitely have a better outlook on it because I feel like I can do it. I'm not going to come in and say, 'Oh man, what's going to happen?'

"Now it's just go out there and get my work in to prepare myself for the season, it won't be so much of, 'Oh, crap.'

"Because that's kind of what it was last year. This year it will be more like okay, that's my job, I'm coming in ready to go, let's just get the work in and get it done."

He wasn't, however, taking anything for granted, knowing he wasn't guaranteed anything.

"I'm going to come in like I'm a non-roster guy fighting for a spot," Robinson said.

"That keeps me going. I'm not going to sit back and say because I had a little bit of success last year that I've got anything guaranteed because I know I don't.

"This team has high expectations and there is going to be competition and guys coming in looking to fill those spots that Dusty [Baker] is looking to fill out his roster, so I'm going to come in more driven than ever."

Robinson said he was "ecstatic" to learn that hitting coach Rick Schu would return in 2016, and also excited to get to know Baker, whose 1992 book on hitting he received from his father when he was a kid.

"Any time you can play for a guy who's had that much experience in baseball and been through what he's been through, seen what he's seen, managed the players he's had, I mean he's had Barry Bonds for goodness sake.

"He's managed the best, he's managed the most controversial, the best players, all that kind of stuff. He's done it all, so he knows what it's going to take to get us to that next level I think."

What role will Robinson play? Fifth outfielder? Left-handed backup first baseman? At bats might be hard to come by, but his level swing and approach at the plate might help if he's getting at bats off the bench.

Robinson led all Nationals' hitters with six pinch hits last season. If anyone knows about being patient and waiting for your opportunities and then making sure to cash them in, it's got to be him, right?