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Washington Nationals’ Victor Robles and the big project in D.C.

Will the Nationals find a way to get Victor Robles back on track in 2022?

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Victor Robles had a .203/.310/.295 line, 21 doubles, a triple, two home runs, 33 walks, and 85 Ks in 107 games and 369 plate appearances before the Washington Nationals sent him down to Triple-A to get sorted out at the plate in late August after a second year of offensive struggles for the 24-year-old outfielder.

Robles went down to the Nationals’ top minor league affiliate and put up a .301/.370/.566 line, eight doubles, a triple, and four home runs in 23 games and 93 PAs at Rochester, but didn’t get a call back up to the majors at the end of the year.

“They said he’s playing well, and he’s playing consistent,” manager Davey Martinez said in a late September Zoom call with reporters, when asked about reports he was getting on their outfielder from Triple-A Rochester.

“So that’s great for us moving forward,” Martinez added.

“So we want to continue to let him play every day and kind of ... it’s work things out and be consistent, and he’s playing with a lot of energy. It’s something that we talked about when we sent him down: He can look at this two ways, and the way that he’s looking at it is that he’s going down there and doing everything he can to get better, and he wants to be back up here and help us win.”

Robles, who signed out of the Dominican Republic for $225K in 2013, debuted in the majors in 2017, became a regular in 2019, playing 155 games for the eventual World Series winners, over which he had 33 doubles, three triples, 17 home runs, 35 walks, and 140 strikeouts in 155 games and 617 PAs, but in 2020-21, he put up a combined .209/.304/.302 line, with just 26 doubles, two triples, five homers, 42 walks, and 138 Ks in 159 games and 558 PAs.

When they finally made the decision to send Robles back down to Triple-A, newly-acquired outfielder Lane Thomas was on a good run, and they wanted to get a better look at the 26-year-old outfielder they got from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline. Martinez told Robles that he probably wouldn’t be back up in 2021, but they weren’t giving up hope he is going to contribute in the future.

“I told him, I said, ‘I don’t know if it’s going to be this year, but definitely Spring Training you need to be ready to go,’” Martinez said, “‘and you need to feel like you’re going to come up here and make this club next year.’ But he took it to heart, and he’s playing really hard, and [Rochester manager] Matt Lecroy appreciates the way he’s going about his business every day and playing. So that’s good for us and good for him.”

“We want Victor to play every day, and that’s the key,” the fourth-year skipper added. “He’s going down there with no pressure, and he’s working on different things. He’s working on some stuff with his swing and playing the game, stealing bases, working on jumps, so we want him to continue to do that. Lane is playing well, and I don’t want take Lane out of the lineup neither, so we’re going to let [Robles] stay down there and continue to play. As long as they’re playing down there and they’re playing in the playoffs, I want him to play every day.”

The manager was asked how the still-young outfielder was handling the personal setback in his career?

“Like I said, I talked to him, [GM Mike Rizzo] talked to him, before [Robles] left,” the manager explained.

“We were very adamant about saying, ‘This doesn’t mean we’re giving up on you. We just want you to go down there, relax, and just play every day with no pressure on you, and just figure some things out,’ and work on the things that we wanted him to work on and he’s been doing that.”

What does the success Thomas enjoyed at the plate, (putting up a .270/.364/.489 line, with 14 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 27 walks, and 46 Ks over 45 games and 206 PAs after the trade from the Cards), mean for the club’s future plans for Robles and center field in D.C.?

“Lane has been terrific for us,” Rizzo said at the end of the regular season, “his skill set was as-advertised by our scouts when they scouted him.

“He’s got good pitch recognition at the plate, he’s got a good short swing, he puts the bat on the ball, he’s got surprising power, he’s got a good arm in the outfield, he runs well, and he’s a good outfielder, so that’s a good skill set for any ballclub, and as far as Victor goes, Victor is a terrific player with a great skill set himself, he’s a young player that we feel his best days are ahead of us, and what does Lane Thomas’s success mean for Robles, it’s just another good player on the roster.”

Kevin Long, who worked with Robles over four years in the nation’s capital before signing on to become the Philadelphia Phillies’ hitting coach last week, said whoever replaces him, has a tough job ahead of them.

“Victor Robles, with the Nats, underperformed for us,” Long said, in discussing what it’s like to work with hitters who are underperforming or exceeding expectations.

“That was going to be a big project, and it is for the next guy that steps in there, because you want him to rebound.”