Summing up where things stand with their 25-year-old outfielder, Victor Robles, after a third straight season of inconsistent production at the plate, at-times spectacular defense out in center field, fairly regular gaffes on the basepaths, and puzzling decision-making by the six-year veteran in the field, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the end of the regular season the Washington Nationals needed Robles to clean some things up and take the next step in his game.
“Well you have to perform,” Rizzo said of the once highly-regarded prospect who debuted in 2017, helped the club win the World Series in his first full season in the majors in 2019, but in the past three seasons has struggled to match his early-career standards.
“It’s easier to forgive a baserunning mistake when you’re hitting .300 with 20 home runs, so he’s got to perform better,” the GM continued.
“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,” Rizzo added, “... he realizes that he’s got to make some improvements, and some adjustments at the plate, and if gets back to near that 2019 player, it’s an All-Star caliber guy.”
His manager, Davey Martinez, has talked often about Robles as a future Gold Glove winner in center field, but also acknowledged the shortcomings in the outfielder’s game. In a late-season interview with reporters, he too talked about what’s got to change for Robles when he comes back in 2023.
“Vic is never going to back off,” Martinez said of the aggressive way Robles plays the game, “... and that’s something that — we’re trying to teach him the other way.
“‘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.”
Robles finished the 2022 campaign with a .224/.273/.312 line, 10 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 17 walks, and 104 Ks in 407 plate appearances, over which he was worth +0.3 fWAR, with a .983 fld% in center, a 4.8 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which was up from -0.1 UZR in 2021, and 12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), which was up from 0 DRS in ‘21 and -4 in 2020.
Those 12 DRS were the most amongst qualified NL center fielders, ahead of the San Diego Padres’ Trent Grisham (8 DRS), the Atlanta Braves’ Michael Harris II (8), and the Arizona D-backs’ Alek Thomas (6 DRS), his UZR (4.8) was second-best, behind only Harris (4.9 UZR), and though he also led qualified NL outfielders in errors (6 total, 3 throwing, 3 fielding) he finished with the most outfield assists (7).
Victor Robles is at it again. pic.twitter.com/OQocdDDav9— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 17, 2022
Last night, Robles, Grisham, and Thomas were named the finalists for the NL Gold Glove in center field.
No love for Harris II, Rawlings?
Do you think Robles played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center this season?
As the Nationals noted in a brief press release on Robles being named a finalist this year, it’s the second time he’s been a finalist (2019).
“He would become the third Gold Glove winner in Nationals’ team history (’05-pres.), along with Adam LaRoche (2012, first base) and former teammate Ryan Zimmerman (2009, third base),” they added.
Who’s your pick for the 2022 NL Gold Glove winner in center?
2022 Rawlings Gold Glove Award Finalists - Center Field - NL: Trent Grisham, Victor Robles, Alek Thomas #RawlingsGoldGloveAwards pic.twitter.com/P0euXjzNd2— Rawlings Baseball (@RawlingsSports) October 20, 2022