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Washington Nationals’ 2023 Roster: Victor Robles needs to find way to barrel them up again…

His defense was solid this season, with the exception of more ill-advised, over-aggressive throws, but Victor Robles continues to struggle on offense…

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Victor Robles hit two of his six home runs on the season over the final month-plus in September/October, but he went just 15 for 64 in that stretch (.234/.246/.375), with a double, a triple, two walks, and 19 Ks in 64 plate appearances.

“He’s having good swings,” manager Davey Martinez said after Robles hit his 6th of the season on September 27th.

“He’s another one when the ball is in the zone right now, he’s hitting the ball fairly hard, but he’s got to remember he’s got to stay short, he can’t get long. He hit a home run today, and a couple of his swings got really long, so he’s got to stay short and remember who he is.”

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game Two Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Robles finished the year at .224/.273/.312, with the six home runs, 10 doubles, two triples, 17 walks, and 104 Ks in 407 PAs, over which he was worth 0.3 fWAR, with a .983 fld%, 4.8 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which was up from -0.1 in 2021, and 12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), which was up from 0 DRS in ‘21 and -4 in 2020.

Robles’s manager talked late this season about the aggressive way he plays center, and while he said fellow outfielder Lane Thomas needs to be a bit more aggressive at times, he said his center fielder needs to dial it down on occasion.

“Vic is never going to back off, and that’s something that we’re trying to teach him the other way,” Martinez explained. “‘Hey, know the situations of the game. Know when you have to play deep. Know when you can come in on a ball. Know what you’re going to do when you get the ball as far as throwing to the right base.’ All that stuff.

“That’s something that next year when he comes back, he needs to be ready to do those kind of things, because as I always say, some of these games that we play that are close, it’s the little things that kind of bite us a little bit, so I want to make sure that next year we clean all that up.”

Returning to the continuing issues at the plate for Robles, however, Martinez talked with reporters over the final month of the season about the lack of power from the outfielder who hit 33 doubles and 17 home runs (in 155 games and 617 PAs) in his first full season in the majors in 2019, and helped the club win it all that year. So where has the power gone?

“It’s something that we’re diving into analytically, and performance-based, and that type of thing,” GM Mike Rizzo said in a September 14th visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies. “I think that when you look at ‘19, Victor was an every day player on a world championship team, and had a good year, and the one thing that he hasn’t lost is he still has that defense prowess, he’s got great range in the outfield, he throws well, and he can steal you a base and that type of thing.”

“But you’re right,” Rizzo continued. “What has kind of gone away is the consistency of hitting the ball on the barrel of the bat. I think that’s what has been inconsistent of him going forward.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

“I think few players were affected as much as Victor was by the 2020 season, where he took a break because of the COVID, never got on track, and ‘20 turned into ‘21, and he just hasn’t found his footing as of yet.

“But we still have hope for the kid. He’s a [25]-year-old player that still has great skills and great tools, but we’ve got to find an answer offensively for him to put the barrel of the bat on the ball more consistently, and until we do that he’s going to struggle, but he’s still young enough and talented enough that it’s definitely worth the effort to try and fix and make him a part of the core group of players for us.”

In his season-ending talk with reporters, Rizzo offered another assessment of the season Robles put together, and what the future holds for the outfielder.

“Well you have to perform,” Rizzo said.

“It’s easier to forgive a baserunning mistake when you’re hitting .300 with 20 home runs, so he’s got to perform better. I think that all the tools and skills are still there to be a good productive big league player for us, and I think that what he brings to the table constantly is that he’s a terrific outfielder, he’s got a good arm, and he adds a speed component to our team. Talking to him, he realizes that he’s got to make some improvements, and some adjustments at the plate, and if he gets back to near that 2019 player, it’s an All-Star caliber guy.”