The Washington Nationals have a problem.
It’s certainly a good problem to have, as the team has embarked on new seasons with much more concerning ones in the past. It still is a problem, however, and it’s one that becomes all the more pressing with every highlight-reel catch Victor Robles makes in center field and extra-base hit he legs out with his blazing speed: The Nats have too many outfielders.
With the Miami Marlins breaking up their star-studded outfield, the title of “Best outfield in the majors” is up for grabs. With former MVP winner Bryce Harper manning right, Gold Glove finalist Michael Taylor in center and electric leadoff man Adam Eaton playing left, Washington could certainly be in that conversation. On the bench, Brian Goodwin is coming off a strong rookie season and Howie Kendrick can play almost half the positions on the diamond.
Yet a player whose ceiling could be higher than them all is gearing up to start the 2018 season in AAA. The aforementioned Robles entered Spring Training as the Nats’ undisputed top prospect but is pushing the issue after going 6-22 (.273) in his first nine games with two doubles, a home run, a stolen base and a pair of diving catches that have given the Nats’ Twitter account ample opportunities to showcase his talents.
Victor Robles can run.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 3, 2018
Victor Robles can throw.
Victor Robles can hit.
Victor Robles can hit for power...
Victor Robles can field. pic.twitter.com/UP64BsWCVo
“He’s impressive. Good kid. Wants to learn,” manager Dave Martinez told The Washington Post. “Been talking to him a lot about just doing the little things. But he gets it. He’s going to be fun to watch. He really is. He does it all. I was watching when they were fielding in the outfield, and it’s almost like he glides out there. He’s going to be a good one.”
This situation rings similar to the one then-manager Dusty Baker faced in 2016 when up-and-coming prospect Trea Turner was on the cusp of the big leagues. Danny Espinosa and Daniel Murphy were entrenched in the middle infield spots and despite Espinosa’s strikeout tendencies, Baker and the front office opted to stick with their veterans.
Turner ultimately made the switch to center field to give the Washington offense a boost over the underperforming Ben Revere. This season, however, the Nats don’t have a glaring spot Robles could even switch to — unless he starts strapping on some catching gear. He’s going to be stuck in the minors until either injuries strike or Harper departs over the offseason.
Taylor seems like a good option to find a new home on the trade market and open up a spot for Robles, but dealing him would present a sizable risk for the Nats. Although his departure would allow Robles to play a full season now, there would be a gaping vacancy in right field in 2019 if Harper signs elsewhere. Keeping Taylor would allow Washington to slide him over to right and put Robles in center.
Cody Bellinger won NL Rookie of the Year honors last year after filling in as an injury replacement for Adrian Gonzalez. Robles may have to follow the same route if he’s going to have any chance at regular playing time — never mind win the award for the top first-year player. Regardless, the 20-year-old outfielder isn’t sweating it.
“For me it’s easy because I always come with the mentality of doing what I’ve been doing,” Robles told the WaPost. “I never think about making the team and all that. I want to make the team, of course; I never think about that. I just think about the job I need to do and that’s it.”
How many games does Victor Robles play in the majors this season?
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