Hitting coach Kevin Long detailed the work he and Victor Robles are doing this spring when he spoke to reporters earlier this month on a Zoom call from West Palm Beach, FL. Robles is one of the players who struggled in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, on both sides of the ball, but the slimmed down, 23-year-old center fielder has been hard at work after he put on some muscle and weight last year and lost some of his speed and agility.
“Victor has made some big changes,” Long said of the work on the offensive end of things, after Robles put up a .220/.293/.315 line, five doubles, and three homers in 52 games and 189 plate appearances in 2020, over which he was worth -0.2 fWAR.
That came after a 2019 season which saw him put up a .255/.326/.419 line with 33 doubles and 17 HRs in 155 games and 617 plate appearances in a 2.5 fWAR run for the World Series champions that year.
“We sent him out with a plan when the  season ended to kind of spread out to get into his legs again, to start using his lower half the way he’s capable of using it,” Long explained.
“We also have a two-strike approach with him now. If you look at his numbers with two strikes, they weren’t very good.”
In 105 plate appearances with two strikes in 2020, Robles put up a .134/.190/.186 with 53 Ks in at bats that got to two-strike counts.
“And the reason why is he still had a lot of movement and he still had a lot of stuff going on in his swing.”
Long pointed to the two-strike approach Juan Soto has and Trea Turner has developed as models for what they want Robles to do, and they’re hard at work this spring trying to get the changes to become habit.
“Spring Training is going to be big for Victor Robles,” Long said.
“Just to kind of get comfortable with some of these new things that he set out to do.
“He’s got a little more time, which, in the past he’s always been late, late, late, and he hasn’t been in a good position.
“Right now he’s in a good position to see the ball and kind of react much, much, better. We’ll see.”
“Hitting with two strikes across the board in the league, as you can see the averages, it’s tough. You got to cover so much,” manager Davey Martinez said of Robles’s struggles in two-strike counts.
[ed. note - “FWIW: In his own big league career, Martinez put up a .223/.278/.310 line after getting to two-strike counts.”]
“For a young hitter it’s even tougher. Some guys do get uncomfortable hitting with two strikes. But it’s part of it. And they got to get better at it.
“We talked a lot about the approach with two strikes and not trying to do too much, putting the ball in play.
“Victor is working on it, and he needs to work on it, and he needs to get better in the strike zone. And so far he’s doing a lot better. I think spreading him out and not jumping at the ball, is going to help that as well.”
Robles’s General Manager too thinks that the outfielder can turn it around after the down year in 2020.
“I’m a Victor Robles lover,” GM Mike Rizzo said on Monday. “I love the guy. I think he’s got terrific skills. I think he’s just scratching the surface. He had a little hiccup last year. You’re talking about one of the elite prospects coming up through the minor leagues into the big leagues, an elite defender in his early days in the big leagues. And a potent offensive player.
“You have not seen the best of Victor Robles yet. He works very, very hard, and he’s taking care of his business, and I think that he’s going to be a solid contributor to a really good team this year.”