Breakout or Bust: Will Victor Robles Be Able To Live Up To The Hype In 2020?

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There has long been hype surrounding Victor Robles and with the departure of Bryce Harper the hope was that he’d show his full potential in 2019.  To an extent he did with some power and speed, but it wasn’t the full breakout campaign that many had hoped for:

546 At Bats
.255 Batting Average (139 Hits)
17 Home Runs
65 RBI
86 Runs
28 Stolen Bases
.326 On Base Percentage
.419 Slugging Percentage
.310 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There are two key questions facing him as we head into 2020:

  1. Will his approach (5.7% walk rate) allow him to be able to tap into his skills?
  2. Will a below average Hard% hinder him?

Approach

His 10.5% SwStr% and 31.9% O-Swing% aren’t abysmal, and he showed an ability to make contact against all types of pitches (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 8.36%
  • Breaking – 14.48%
  • Offspeed – 18.48%

Robles showed some improvements as the season progressed (21.0% strikeout rate in the second half, 19.6% in August and 20.4% in September).  You can argue that he was a bit too aggressive, and perhaps being a little bit more passive and taking a few more pitches would benefit him.  Even as is the approach isn’t bad enough to keep him from tapping into the skills, but a little bit of an adjustment would go a long way.

Hard%

Robles depended a lot on his speed as opposed to quality contact (and part of that may have been being overly aggressive and not waiting for his pitch).  His Hard% was 24.9%, and he was also below average in terms of Barrel% (4.8%, compared to a league average of 6.3%) and Exit Velocity (81.0 mph, compared to a league average of 87.5 mph).  None of those numbers would support an ability to hit for a strong average, nor do his elevated popup rate (15.3%) or unwillingness to use the entire field (23.3% Oppo%).

That’s a lot of negatives to expect dramatic changes, though he was hitting the ball harder in September (32.9%).  Of course that’s still not a sexy mark and came in 93 AB, so it’s hard to hang our hats on it.

So what does this all mean?  We would like to think that he can continue to make consistent contact, and maybe dialing down the aggressiveness just slightly would allow him to draw a few more walks and tap into his speed more consistently.  All he truly needs is an improvement against fastballs (.246 with 4 HR against fourseam fastballs), and that would go a long way.  Of course there are a lot of questions, and it’s no guarantee that the adjustments come (especially given the long layoff that everyone is now facing)…

  • Can we really expect him to alter his approach?
  • Will that lead to better, more consistently hard contact?
  • Can we even bank on a consistently better Hard%, with the hope coming off less than 100 AB?

There is no question that his blend of power and speed will make Robles an asset, but he could be a superstar if he can make the alterations.  We were high on him originally entering 2020, but we’d tap the brakes a little bit now. 

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 Fantasy Baseball preseason rankings:

PositionLast Updated
Catchers02/10/20
First Basemen02/13/20
Second Basemen02/18/20
Third Basemen02/21/20
Shortstops02/24/20
Outfielders03/06/20
Starting Pitchers03/09/20
Relief Pitchers03/03/20

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