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Will the Washington Nationals’ faith in Victor Robles pay off in 2019?

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Victor Robles should get significant at bats in the Nationals’ lineup in 2019. Will holding on to the highly-regarded outfielder pay off this season?

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Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Victor Robles played out the minor league season in Syracuse, putting up a .278/.356/.386 line, nine doubles, a triple, and two home runs in 40 games and 182 plate appearances for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate before the Nationals called the 21-year-old outfielder up and gave him 66 more plate appearances in the majors.

Robles played 36 of his 40 games with the Nationals’ top minor league affiliate late in the season (July/August/September) after returning from a hyperextended left elbow injured during the fourth game of his fifth minor league campaign.

Over the final 12 games with the Nationals, (eight as a starter), the top prospect in the Nats’ system — who started off 3 for 20 (.150/.250/.150) in his first nine games (four starts) — went 14 for 39 (.359/.405/.718) with three doubles, a triple, and three home runs in 42 PAs.

“I like what I see,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters after Robles put together a four-hit game at home against the Miami Marlins on September 26th.

“He’s full of energy. He can spark our team. There’s still a lot for him to learn, obviously, but I mean he’s going to learn and he wants to learn and that’s a good thing. But I really love what I see. Three home runs in a short period of time, that’s pretty impressive. What I like the most is the fact that he’s not afraid to use the other side of the field, which is kind of nice.”

The adjustments Martinez saw from Robles in a short period of time impressed him too.

“He has made adjustments up here,” Martinez explained.

“Like I said, the biggest thing was for him to work at bats, and stay in at bats, not chase, and he’s done a good job on that, putting the ball in play.”

Though the Nationals’ skipper said he was still looking at free agent outfielder Bryce Harper being a part of the lineup in 2019 (and beyond), Martinez talked to the MLB Network’s Hot Stove hosts Matt Vasgersian and Ron Darling earlier this month about what Robles brings to the lineup should he be part of the outfield mix in the nation’s capital next season.

“He came up and he played really well,” Martinez said, “and what I really liked most is his ball comes off the bat really hot. He’s not a very big kid, but he hit some home runs for us the last month of the season and hit some doubles that the balls don’t seem to come down. It comes really hot. Everybody talks about Juan Soto, but this kid could be very explosive.

“He loves to play the game. He’s very good. He’s really learning how to play center field, because he plays it with a lot of speed, has a great arm, and once he gets on base he’s just itching to steal bases, so he’s going to be an exciting player for us, and like I said, I’m looking forward to writing his name in the lineup as much as possible next year.”

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote earlier this week that the Nationals, who signed free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki this week, were talking to Miami about J.T. Realmuto again this winter, but, “... reached a standoff with the Marlins in the asking price for Realmuto, after rejecting Miami’s request for star outfield prospect Victor Robles, so they moved on.”

Will Robles reward GM Mike Rizzo’s faith in the young outfielder, who’s been a target for any opposing teams the Nationals talked trades with over the last few winters?

“We all saw a little snapshot of what [Robles] can bring to the table,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies after the outfielder came up in September.

“He’s an outstanding presence in the lineup. He’s an extreme athlete. Blinding speed, great defense, he really can throw, he’s got power, he’s an exciting baserunner, so he plays at 100 mph with his hair on fire and he’s one of the young, athletic, fast-moving players that we keep trying to churn into the lineup each and every year. He’s going to be exciting.”

“He is a consummate center fielder,” Rizzo added when asked where the young outfielder will fit in the mix. “Great range, great angles, great defense and he can really play it.”

As for any concerns about Robles being ready for the test should he end up a starter in the Nationals’ outfield next season?

“We think that he was ready to make that leap this year,” Rizzo said, “but he hyperextended his left elbow early on, like I think Game 4 of the minor league season which really sidetracked him a little bit in his progression this year, but he came back after a four-month rehab and played about 57 games or so in Triple-A and he’s just starting now to get his sea legs and his timing and that type of thing and we’re looking for big things from him and he’s obviously a big part of our future. He’s one of the top prospects in baseball, in all of baseball, if not the top prospect, and you put him side by side with Soto and you’ve got yourself a dynamic duo of 20-somethings that can really play.”

Robles is playing in the Dominican Winter League right now, putting up a .265/.345/.316 line with two doubles and a home run in 25 games for the DWL’s Aguilas Cibaenas.