In Victor Robles, the Nationals could have an National League Rookie of the Year candidate in their outfield for a second straight season.
The 21-year-old center fielder has major league experience from each of the past two Septembers, when he combined to hit .277/.337/.506 in 83 at-bats. In preparation for this year’s spring training, he’s already working out at the Nationals’ academy in the Dominican Republic alongside 19-year-old left fielder Juan Soto, the runner-up for the NL’s top rookie honor last season.
“Players on our 40-man roster will work out at the academy, and then some days will work out closer to their homes with players from other clubs as well,” farm director Mark Scialabba said.
Robles missed more than three months of the 2018 campaign after severely hyperextending his left elbow in April while playing for Triple-A Syracuse. He was limited to 52 minor league games and 21 major league games before joining Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League, where he posted a .265/.345/.316 slash line in 98 at-bats while stealing four bases in five attempts.
“We wanted Victor to continue playing this winter to get more at-bats due to lost time earlier this year,” Scialabba said. “He had a strong desire to play for the first time in the winter league as well. The plan was for him to play, benefit from extra at-bats and then shut it down at some point to rest and begin his offseason strength and conditioning program.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Robles has elite speed and excellent range, as well as a strong outfield arm. His hit tool is ahead of his power, but he’s a righthanded batter who has impressed team officials with his ability to make adjustments, even at the major league level.
“Offensively, he continues to show the ability to barrel up the ball to all fields with a short, compact stroke with plus bat speed,” Scialabba said. “He uses his legs to put pressure on the defense with his aggressive running style and will utilize his plus-plus speed down the line and to steal a base.”
In five minor league seasons, Robles has hit .300/.392/.457 with 129 stolen bases.
“His passion and energy for the game is unique and can be infectious with his teammates,” Scialabba said. “He needs to continue to learn the game, situations, how to harness his energy and must continue to make necessary adjustments as the league adjusts to his strengths. He has the potential to be a catalyst for our club for a long time.”
— Rocket Wheeler was named the new manager of short-season Auburn. He has 26 years of professional managerial experience, including the past 16 in the Braves’ organization.
— Mack Jenkins is the new pitching coach at low Class A Hagerstown. Jenkins had spent the past 32 years working in the Reds’ organization, including a stint from 2016 to 2018 as the major league pitching coach.