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Victor Robles' Exit Velocity Is Cause For Concern

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Victor Robles (Photo by Tom DiPace)

Victor Robles has several tools that match up with any prospect in the minors. He’s a near top-of-the-scale runner who has shown an ability to steal bases and is one of the best defensive center fielders around. He also has a plus arm.

That gives him a shot to be a productive big league outfielder, one who should help the Nationals in 2019.

But when it comes to Robles as a hitter, there’s a little more to be concerned about than his .300/.392/.457 minor league hitting line may indicate. Robles has always hit for average in the minors and has posted excellent on-base percentages, in part because he crowds the plate and often gets plunked—he has been hit 93 times in 384 games.

But Robles’ exit velocities have consistently been mediocre at best. In two short stints in the major leagues, Robles’ average exit velocity on batted balls is 82.5 mph, which is nearly five mph less than the major league average.

Even if exit velocity stabilizes quickly, Robles has just 93 big league plate appearances, so it’s a small sample. But multiple major league sources confirm that his minor league average exit velocities (as measured by TrackMan) have generally tracked in a slightly better, but similar range. Robles’ average exit velocity in the minors has ranged between 84 and 85 mph. That’s better, but not by much.

MLB has logged 777 hitters with 50 or more balls in play over the past four seasons. Of those 777 hitters, Robles ranks 733rd in average exit velocity.

Average exit velocity isn’t a perfect measure of hitter quality, but it is a useful tool. Top power hitters have the best average exit velocity in the majors. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Nelson Cruz are consistently among MLB’s leaders with 93-94 mph average exit velocities. The best player in baseball, Mike Trout, has averaged 91 mph over the past four seasons. Anyone in the 90 mph and up range is consistently stinging the ball when they make contact.

Moving down the list, there are still plenty of players in the 87-89 mph range who have solid power (Gleyber Torres and Anthony Rizzo average 89 mph). By the time one reaches 85-86 mph, the number of hitters who drive the ball consistently starts to tail off, and by the time this list dips into the low 80s, it’s almost entirely filled with hitters who are contact-oriented with little power.

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Prospect Pad Retrospective: Nationals OF Victor Robles

Robles was quickly rising through the minor league system when he talked at the Baseball America Prospect Pad in 2017.

Examples in this range include Jon Jay, Cesar Hernandez, Alcides Escobar and Jose Peraza. All of whom have averaged 83-84 mph exit velocity over the past four seasons. Ender Inciarte (83.2 mph) is a player with a similar tool set to Robles who has had success—he’s a career .289/.337/.390 hitter—with a lower average exit velocity.

But unless Robles significantly improves how hard he hits the ball, he’s more likely to need to find success as a hitter who sprays the ball around and uses his legs more than one who produces big power. It’s not a disqualifying factor for a prospect with other tools like Robles has, but it is a risk factor.

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