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Will top Washington Nationals’ prospect Victor Robles force his way into the outfield mix in 2018?

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo is telling reporters this winter that Victor Robles will be given the opportunity to force his way onto the big league roster next Spring, but he will play every day somewhere...

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Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Even Victor Robles was surprised he got the call to make his major league debut late this past season, after he’d put up a combined .300/.382/.493 line, 37 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, and 27 stole bases in 114 games and 496 plate appearances at High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg in Washington’s system.

“The original plan was for me to head to instructional league and prepare for ... the Arizona Fall League,” Robles told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, after he received the news in early September.

“I was on my way to do that. Yesterday morning, I got the phone call. I am very blessed about the opportunity. It was [a] great feeling [to know] that I was getting called up to the big leagues.”

“This is definitely what I worked for,” Robles added, “and 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, and hopefully I’ll help them out any way I can with my ability.”

Divisional Round - Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals - Game Two Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Robles ended up making the Nationals’ postseason roster too, with now-former Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker explaining that the need for speed, outfield defense, and a right-handed bat on the bench led him to add the organization’s top prospect to the NLDS roster for the matchup with the Chicago Cubs.

In spite of the fact that he got a look at the major league level late last season, Robles is likely to start the 2018 campaign at Triple-A in the Nationals’ system, with the major league outfield mix crowded with the likes of Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor, and Bryce Harper expected to start, left to right, and Brian Goodwin, who had a bit of a breakout campaign of his own last season, in line for a bench spot.

But will Robles at least be given a shot to compete one of the Nationals’ outfield spots this Spring?

GM Mike Rizzo was asked that question in an MLB Network Radio interview earlier this month.

“We’ve never been afraid to give a guys a chance,” Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden, Jim Duquette, and Mike Ferrin at the Winter Meetings.

“In my mind,” Rizzo said, “I have things mapped out I think how they should go and I think Victor will get everyday at bats in Triple-A to start the season, but I didn’t expect to bring him up to the big leagues last year, but he kind of forced our hand because he was playing so well and his skill set is so ridiculous and he fills a lot of needs for us, and he’s a high-ceiling guy, but you could see the maturity of his game, and he’s got a thing about him, he’s got that thing and it’s hard to put in a scouting report, but he’s got it.”

Robles won’t start the 2018 campaign in the majors unless he’s going to be starting, as Rizzo told reporters on the final day of the Winter Meetings.

“He won’t be an extra outfielder on the big league club,” Rizzo explained.

“He’s going to play every day somewhere, and if it’s not set up for him to play every day in the big leagues, then he’ll play every day in Triple-A.”

Rizzo reiterated those thoughts at WinterFest last weekend, when he was asked what the immediate future held for Robles, who was once again ranked as the top prospect in the Nationals’ organization by Baseball America this winter, and is currently ranked the No. 3 overall prospect in baseball by’s Pipeline scouts.

“He’s going to play every day,” Rizzo said.

“The decision we’re going to make there, is it going to be in the big league level or is it going to be in the minor league level. It’s never a bad idea to get more minor league at bats, that’s never a bad thing, but he forced his way on the playoff roster last year, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to force his way onto the big league roster, but he will play every day somewhere Opening Day.

“He’s got to get consistent everyday at bats, and he’s going to be a force for us in the very near future.”