There were two Washington Nationals’ prospects on Baseball America’s Top 100 for 2018 last winter, Juan Soto, who was ranked 56th, and Victor Robles, who was No. 5 on the list.
Soto took the majors by storm with one of the best seasons by a teenager in MLB history, while Robles was set back some in his development by a hyperextended left elbow, but is looking like he’ll be the starting center fielder on Opening Day this season.
Robles is still ranked high on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list of the top prospects for 2019, which was released on Wednesday, landing at No. 11.
He’s joined on the list by two other Nationals’ prospects this year, shortstop/future second baseman Carter Kieboom, who’s ranked 41st, and Luis Garcia, the 18-year-old shortstop, who ended up at No. 61 on BA’s list.
Robles, 21, injured his elbow four games into the 2018 campaign, but returned to put up a combined .276/.371/.370 line, 10 doubles and two home runs over 52 games and 226 plate appearances in the Nationals’ minor league system last summer.
He hit three doubles and three home runs over 21 games and 66 PAs with the Nationals in September, going 17 for 59 (.288/.348/.525) to finish out the season.
Asked this winter if he felt he was ready to be a major leaguer right now, the top prospect in the organization said he felt ready to take the next step.
“I feel ready for what’s to come,” Robles said.
“Just a little extra time I’ve had to get a little more experience. I feel like I’ve seen so many plays on the field that it’s given me that experience. Also, just having the patience to get through the games and kind of slow things down. I’m ready for what’s to come in the years ahead.”
While Robles is expected, barring any further moves by the Nationals this winter, to be on the Opening Day roster, Kieboom, a 21-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick, is likely to start the 2019 campaign at Double-A Harrisburg, where he finished up in 2018, though he was being discussed as a possible option, or at least part of the organizational depth, at second base before the Nats signed infielder Brian Dozier earlier this month.
Kieboom put up a .298/.386/.494 line, 15 doubles, and 11 home runs over 61 games and 285 PAs at High-A Potomac, and posted a .262/.326/.395, 16 doubles, and five HRs home runs in 62 games and 273 PAs at Double-A Harrisburg. He finished his 2018 campaign with a trip to the Arizona Fall League which he said was a good test as he climbs the organizational ladder, and an opportunity to get some reps at second base if he’s needed there in the future.
“It was different, but it was great,” Kieboom said this winter. “I was glad I got to play, and get some live reps out there, and to play against talent like that that was out there, it’s definitely a quicker game, and I think that’s the closest thing I can get to playing in the big leagues at that position, so to play second base and get all those reps was definitely beneficial for the future.”
Garcia, who will turn 19 in May, has put up a combined .299/.335/.401 line in two seasons and 176 games played in the Gulf Coast, Low-A South Atlantic, and High-A Carolina Leagues since he signed with the Nationals for $1.3M back in 2016.
His goals for the 2019 season?
“I think the goals are just kind of the same as always,” he told reporters this winter.
“It’s really to stay healthy physically, to be there, to stay healthy is just really key with this and I would like to maybe add more strength.”
He also said he took some inspiration from another prospect in the organization who made his major league debut as a 19-year-old last season.
“Of course there’s possibilities that run through your head, and when I saw it happen with Juan [Soto] I thought, ‘I’m going to be the next one.’”