Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked earlier this month, after Victor Robles connected for his 16th home run of the season in a 2 for 5 game in an 18-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, about the 22-year-old center fielder coming into his own as he gets deeper into his first full season in the majors.
“You’re seeing Robles being Robles,” Martinez told reporters.
“When I first saw him last year and now this year, this is the kind of player we envisioned.
“Just an all-around good player, you know. The homers will come, but we’re just constantly telling him, hey swing at strikes, and just put the ball in play. He’s got tons of speed, you know, and he’s doing that, he’s hitting doubles, driving balls in, getting big hits for us and playing unbelievable defense. I’ve said this before, but you’ve got to look at him as a Gold Glover, you really do. He’s playing defense — his defense is unbelievable.”
Among qualified National League center fielders, Robles’s 16 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) are second-best, behind only Brewers’ outfielder Lorenzo Cain (18 DRS), and they’re good for 3rd overall among all NL fielders, tied with Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story (16), behind Cain, the D-backs’ Nick Ahmed, and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger (tied, 19).
His 4.3 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), and UZR/150 (6.4), measurements which attempt, “to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess (or lack thereof),” are both third-best among NL center fielders, his 11 outfield assists are tops for qualified NL center fielders, and his .989 FLD% is 3rd-best, behind only Padres’ CF Manuel Margot (.991), and Cain (.993).
“He’s having a lot of fun, and he works,” Martinez said. “He works hard at it every day. Today he went out there for five minutes and worked on his drop step, you know, and he goes out there every day and gets a little work done every single day.”
Robles is also reaching base every single day, at least for the last 17 games before the start of the second of three with the Marlins on Saturday night, going 23 for 67 (.343/.408/.537) over his on-base streak, with seven doubles, two home runs, and six walks in 76 PAs.
There was a scare for Robles and the Nationals in Friday’s series opener with Miami though, when Robles squared to bunt in the fourth and took a fastball off his right index finger, but he stayed in the game, actually went for an X-ray a few innings later with the Nats at bat (it was negative), and stayed in in spite of the fact that he cracked the nail and was bleeding.
Once the game was over, with the Nationals walking off on the Fish, Robles was sure to tell his manager that he wouldn’t need to sit out the second of three.
“He just left my office,” Martinez told reporters, “says don’t sit him down, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Robles was penciled into the lineup on Saturday night, and his manager talked before the game about the continued development of his charge.
“Victor is a really, really good baseball player, and is going to be, probably, for me, one of the top center fielders in the game,” Martinez said.
“I mean, he’s getting better, every time we see him he’s getting better,” Martinez continued.
“He made a throw yesterday where I thought, ‘Ahh, you know, he threw it, he kept it down, it’s not going to be close.’
“It was pretty close. He throws it outside of the base you’ve got a good chance of being out, very good chance.
“But the way he’s covering ground, the way he’s communicating with the other outfielders, his at bats, they’re getting better, and if you’re a fan and you see him like I see him, yeah, you can say he’s a bit overshadowed because other guys are hitting 40+ home runs, but this guy is going to have close to 20 HRs, he’s going to hit .250-.260, and I see that gong up in his future, but he’s getting better, he’s understanding the game a little bit more.”
The talent has always been there, with scouts touting his five tools for years before he made his MLB debut, and at just 21, he’s living up to expectations.
“He had raw talent,” Martinez said, “he’s just really good, and now he’s starting to get to understand the game and what he needs to do. A lot of times, when he bunts, you don’t have to tell him, he does it on his own, and he knows when to and when not to, and sometimes we talk about it, ‘Hey, I [didn’t] really want you to bunt right there,’ and I try to tell him why and he understands, I try to tell him why and he understands it, and he’s starting to get it, and sky is the limit for him, really, I mean he’s a guy that could potentially steal 40-50 bases, hit .280-.300, hit 25-30, and win a Gold Glove for many, many years.”
Robles doubled in the first at bat of the fourth on Saturday night, extending his on-base run to 18-straight games.