by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It must pain Victor Robles to be sitting at Triple-A, staring at a virtually lost season, while Juan Soto is entrenching himself as a star in the Majors. That was supposed to be Robles’ opportunity but injuries took it from him (a hyperextended elbow sidelined him for around three months), and now back on the field you would think that the Nationals could look toward him to inject a little more life into a team that’s quickly falling out of relevance.
The problem, of course, is that the surface numbers at Triple-A have been ugly for Robles:
.231 (18-78), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 11 R, 10 SB
Obviously we like to see that the speed is there, but how disappointed should we really be? Is there hope in the underlying numbers that he can turn it around and still hit his way into a role in the Majors?
One of the real keys is his approach, as things have been solid despite the underlying struggles (through August 12):
- Strikeout Rate – 14.6%
- Walk Rate – 13.5%
- SwStr% – 8.3%
While he hasn’t been hitting the ball particularly hard (14.8% line drive rate), considering his contact rate and speed you would think he should maintain significantly better than his current .262 BABIP. Those numbers alone are going to tell you that the surface numbers are being dragged down by some poor luck and that things can turn around at any moment.
While it’s tough to see, the scouting report from MLB.com still rings true:
Robles possesses off-the-charts athleticism as well as five standout tools that he showcases on a daily basis. He has the makings of plus hitter from the right side of the plate, with a compact but explosive swing and a present feel for using the whole field. His power played consistently in 2017 thanks to a more leveraged swing and better pitch selection, and the result was a career-best 10 home runs and 58 extra-base hits across three levels. Robles’ approach and strike-zone judgment are also mature, while his tendency to hold his ground in the batter’s box has led to high hit-by-pitch totals throughout his career. A plus-plus runner, Robles impacts games with his wheels on the bases as well as in center field, where he has exceptional range and instincts as well as arm strength that’s among the best in the Minors at the position.
The speed is still there, as is his approach. It’s just a matter of him finding his timing, and that should come at any time. With Adam Eaton and Michael Taylor all that is standing in his way, would it really be a surprise if the Nationals feature an outfield of Robles, Soto and Bryce Harper come September? While it’s been a frustrating season, he could still be an impact bat come September so stay the course and ultimately look to reap the benefits.
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs