Earlier in our Washington Nationals 2015 Player Review series, we discussed the surprising success of Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa. While Espinosa’s offensive resurgence was one of the biggest and most welcome surprises of the year, there was one player who went even further in surpassing all expectations last season: Clint Robinson.
The Nationals invited Robinson to Spring Training last season as a non-roster invitee. He wasn’t supposed to spend a whole lot of time with the big league club, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
As Nationals fans know all too well, however, predictions made before Spring Training should be taken with a significant grain of salt. whether it’s predicting the overall success of a team or that of an individual player, circumstances change quickly in baseball, and sometimes a player who wasn’t expected to survive the first round of cuts in Spring Training becomes one of the team’s most valuable assets. For Robinson, that’s exactly what happened.
Due to injuries to other players and his own Spring Training success, Robinson made the Opening Day roster. It was the first time he had ever started the season with a big league club, and as Robinson quickly proved, he was here to stay.
In 309 plate appearances last season, Robinson hit .272 with 10 home runs, 34 RBIs and 44 runs scored. The 30-year-old rookie had never spent any significant time in the big leagues and performed well against major league pitching throughout the season.
Robinson not only provided the Nationals with a valuable option off the bench, but he helped keep the team (somewhat) afloat during an injury-riddled 2015 campaign. Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span and Jayson Werth all missed significant time on the disabled list last season, and like Espinosa, Robinson’s versatility was a major asset for the team.
Over the course of the season, Robinson played 44 games at first base, 27 games in left field and 11 games in right field. He was incredibly versatile in the field for the Nationals (he even pitched an inning!) and played the unique role of both a super-utility player and an everyday player. Robinson’s offensive numbers weren’t extraordinary, but they were far better than anyone could have anticipated and helped the Nationals perform at a relatively decent level while a large portion of their lineup was on the disabled list.
The 2015 season was full of disappointments for the Nationals, but Robinson was not one of them. And with a successful rookie campaign in the books, it’ll be interesting to see how Robinson performs in 2016 and beyond.