Updating reporters on the club’s attempts to get Victor Robles to take a more patient and measured approach at the plate, potentially as the leadoff hitter in the nation’s capital for 2021, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters earlier this month that he’s seen a more confident Robles this spring.
“I’m building a lot of confidence with Robles,” Martinez said, after a down year at the plate and in center field for the 23-year-old in 2020’s 60-game campaign.
“He’s starting to see a lot of pitches. We’re at that teaching stage with him trying to get him to understand hitting the ball in the strike zone, less striking out.
“We’re doing all that stuff with him. So leading off, I think he’s really trying to get on base.
“He’s had some good at bats for us.
“Whether we stick with that or not, I still don’t know yet, but if he can do it... I think with him and [Juan] Soto and [Trea] Turner and [Josh] Bell, those guys up there, if he can get on base for us, we’re going to be that [much] more explosive.”
Getting more fastballs, and strikes overall, hitting in front of Soto, if he and Robles are 1-2 in the lineup, is another way to help Robles stay in the zone and be more selective.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said.
“I think you’re seeing the benefits. I mean, Robles is getting a lot more strikes, especially early in the count.
“They don’t want him to get on base with a guy like Soto hitting behind him. It definitely has its benefits.”
Going into Wednesday night’s game in West Palm Beach, FL, Robles was 10 for 38 on the spring (.263/.341/.579) with three doubles, three homers, four walks, and 15 Ks in 14 games this spring.
Martinez said that he’s seen Robles’s confidence grow over the course of Spring Training.
“What I’ve seen is he’s taking pitches that he normally swings at, which is a good sign, and he’s hitting the balls relatively hard. With that being said, he’s still striking out, and we kind of want him to put the ball in play,” the manager explained.
“When he does put the ball in play, he’s hitting the ball hard, his exit velo has been really, really impressive this spring.”
“He’s still working on his new batting stance,” Martinez added. “And he’s seeing pitches, which is great.”
“I really like the adjustments he’s made, not just hitting, but his all-around game, like I said, his outfield, he’s getting better jumps. His base-stealing, he’s getting better jumps.
“Just his all-around play has been really, really good this spring.”
Robles, as he’s said before, told reporters on a Zoom call on Wednesday afternoon, that he is comfortable leading off, having done it for the majority of his time in the minors, but he’s willing to do whatever his manager asks.
“I definitely feel very comfortable there, probably the most comfortable I do, so I don’t have any problem I don’t think doing it during the season,” Robles said.
“Not to say that I mind hitting anywhere else, because, at the end of the day, I want to be in a position to help the team out and wherever they put me I’m definitely going to do my best to help them win.”
His focus this spring, as Martinez said, is swinging at better pitches, and making solid contact when he does.
“I’ve definitely focused a lot this spring when I go into my at bats to zone in on my pitches,” Robles said.
“I’ve worked a lot with our hitting coach Kevin Long at trying to be very specific and selective on my pitches when I swing, especially early in the count, and with the example like Octavio [Martinez] or any of the coaches that throw BP to me, when I’m taking my BP I’m very selective. In my mind, and I focus even in my BP, to be selective and certain pitches that I want to look at in my at bats and I’ve taken that to my game and it’s been helping me quite a bit.”
“I think Victor will get a lot of pitches to hit with Soto or Trea hitting behind him, either or,” Martinez said.
“For me, he’s got to be aggressive in the strike zone, and when he gets an opportunity to get a good pitch to hit, the biggest thing is to put it in play and not miss them, or not hit them foul. I say that about everybody, you get very few pitches to hit in this game, when you do get them, you can’t miss them, you’ve got to hit them hard, put them in play somewhere, and that’s something that he’s done this spring, you can see that, like I said, the exit velo off his bat has increased tremendously, and that’s a good sign.”