WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—When asked about all the incredible things he’s seen Victor Robles do on a baseball field, Tripp Keister, who managed Robles for the latter half of last summer, doesn’t have to think long to recall the most recent example.
“Just yesterday he hit a ball back into the field that’s back behind this field for a long homer,” he said, “and then he ended the next inning defensively by throwing out a runner at the plate on a sac fly.”
That’s Robles in a nutshell—a young, electrifying player who can impact the game on both sides of the ball. The Nationals paid a king’s ransom—top prospect righthanders Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning—to acquire center fielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox, but made sure to keep Robles in the system.
He’s the unquestioned top prospect in the system, and ranked No. 13 on this year’s Top 100 prospects list. This, after a breakout season at two levels of A-ball during which he hit .280/.376/.423 with nine home runs, 41 RBIs and 37 stolen bases in 51 chances.
He also showed the potential to be a true center fielder with an above-average arm as well. In short, Robles can do it all.
“There’s nothing he can’t do on a baseball field,” Keister said. “He’s got tools and he’s as exciting a player as you’ll see in the minor leagues, that’s for sure. He can do so many things. He can run, he can hit, he can hit for power, he can change the game with so many of his tools. He’s just very exciting.”
If there was one blemish on his game last year, it was that he kept getting hit by pitches. He was hit 34 times last season, second in the minors only to Atlanta’s Ray-Patrick Didder, in just 108 games. That includes his plunking on Aug. 8, when he was in the Gulf Coast League rehabbing a hand injury suffered on, you guessed it, a hit by pitch.
Undaunted, Robles steadfastly refused to surrender the inside part of the plate to the pitcher.
“He definitely has more hit by pitches than others, for whatever reason,” Keister said. “I don’t know what it is. I really don’t. A couple of times last year they hit him with breaking balls and it was just bad pitches, it wasn’t like they were throwing at him or anything. I don’t know what it is. Just coincidence, I guess. He’s not crowding the plate. He’s not diving or anything. It just works out that way.”
Robles was promoted from low Class A Hagerstown to Potomac on June 27, after hitting .305/.405/.459 with the Suns. He struggled a bit after the promotion, but finished the regular season strong. He collected nine hits in his final four games, then went 6-for-14 in his team’s three-game to Lynchburg in the first round of the Carolina League playoffs.
He’ll return to Potomac to begin 2017, where he’ll continue to refine his game to help those loud tools play up even more. That means learning to recognize patterns pitchers use against him, establishing a more consistent pregame routine, learning to make in-game adjustments and identifying the ideal time to steal bases.
“If he does that,” Keister said. “He’ll be a dynamite player.”
• Righthander Jorge Alcala started for the low Class A group of Astros prospects and showed a big-time fastball, sitting between 92-95 mph and touching 96 on occasion. He paired the fastball with a changeup and a slider, both thrown in the mid-to-high 80s. The slider had more cut-type break than depth, but the changeup flashed enough late fade to get swings and misses out of the zone.
• Sterling Sharp, a righthander the Nationals chose out of Drury University with their 22nd-round selection last year, showed a whippy arm and heavy sink on a low-90s fastball that touched 93 mph.
• Astros outfielder Ronnie Dawson hit a long home run in the ninth inning of his team’s game against Nationals prospects. The second-rounder last season out of Ohio State hit seven homers and slashed .225/.351/.373 in his pro debut last season with short-season Tri-City.
• Forgot to upload this on Monday, but Astros outfielder and No. 2 prospect Kyle Tucker hit a booming triple off of fellow Astros farmhand Kent Emanuel. Here’s how it looked.