Our Monday Mailbag is back again. As the Washington Nationals get set for the MLB Winter Meetings, we look at the expectations for Victor Robles in 2019.
Usually, for our Monday Mailbag articles, we ask Twitter for all your questions about the Washington Nationals. But this week, we mixed it up a bit and went to the Nationals subreddit and we got some great questions.
It’s been an interesting two weeks since our last Mailbag, as the Nats have brought in the top free agent starter on the market in Patrick Corbin. But on Friday, Mark Lerner seemingly ruled out the possibility of a return for Bryce Harper, which raises some questions about what to do in his absence.
In today’s article, we have some questions about what to expect for some of their existing players, plans for some of the other holes on the team and whether any of the new additions could regress in 2019.
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beatdrum1: What kind of numbers do you expect from a full season of Victor Robles?
Anyone who knows me knows how high I am on Victor Robles and how I think the team made the right call holding onto him instead of trading him for J.T. Realmuto. Remember, he was almost unanimously ranked above Juan Soto across the board in prospect rankings, and we all saw just how good he was in September.
While Robles’ hit tool is way behind Soto’s and his power is a little way behind right now, he makes up for it with blazing speed. So if Robles starts the season in the majors, which appears to be the expectation, I’d look for an average of around .270 with about 15-20 home runs and 30-40 stolen bases. I’d also go as far as saying he’s going to be the NL Rookie of the Year favorite heading into the year too. This year will be a fun one watching him.
UncommonSense0: Obviously re-signing Rendon is a top priority, but how much do you think the Nats are willing to spend to keep him here?
That’s an excellent question, and as you say, getting Anthony Rendon locked up is going to be a top priority for the team now. But it will be interesting to see how high the team is prepared to go, especially after they were able to draw a line in the sand at 10 years, $300 million on Harper.
That tells me that their ceiling isn’t going to be any higher than $30 million per season for Rendon no matter what, but realistically a little bit lower. I think $25 million per season over 6/7 years is realistic, but they may well go up to about $28 million if they need to in order to ensure that the team doesn’t lose two cornerstone players in two seasons.
PowerBoater69: The players the Nats have been acquiring all had fine seasons the last year or two, which ones are the highest risk to backslide?
I think here, a lot of people would be tempted to answer with Patrick Corbin, after his incredible 2018 season. But I explored this in a recent article and why he should be able to maintain his elevated performance, with everything trending in the right direction. So of the five additions, the most likely to regress is probably Kurt Suzuki, purely because of just how well he did with the Atlanta Braves.
Over the last two seasons, Suzuki led all catchers with at least 200 plate appearances in OPS at .825. To expect that kind of production to continue for a 35-year-old without a sustained track record of that production just seems unrealistic. He should still produce better than the previous catchers the Nats have had, providing they manage him right and don’t try to squeeze 110 or so games out of him. Thankfully, having Yan Gomes will take a lot of pressure off, and allow Suzuki to be a perfect complimentary catcher.
e10372928: What would you say is most likely going to be the team’s plan at second base this season?
Publicly, the team has been adamant that they are happy to roll with a combination of Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo at the keystone to start off with for next season. But I’m not sure that’s the case internally, as relying on a 35-year-old coming off an Achilles injury, and a player who hasn’t impressed in extended starting opportunities is far from ideal.
There have been plenty of rumors about that they’ve reached out to DJ LeMahieu and Josh Harrison, among others, this offseason. It seems like the team is doing their due diligence, and will be ready to pounce if a bargain presents itself, perhaps someone like Harrison or even Jed Lowrie on a one or two year contract, but they won’t necessarily be actively seeking help at second base like they were with their other needs.
That would then allow Carter Kieboom all the time he needs to develop in the minor leagues, though I would expect we see him this summer, or as a September call-up at the very latest.
onlytakesone: With the signing of Corbin are the Nats satisfied with their starting rotation?
I would say that the Nationals are comfortable enough with the starting pitchers they have so far, but I wouldn’t say they are satisfied. Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke to Rizzo at the Winter Meetings yesterday and he said the signings allow them to be more patient with their other needs, including another starter.
But much like their situation at second base, they’re probably looking for value rather than a frontline guy like Dallas Keuchel. So perhaps if Jeremy Hellickson or someone like Tyson Ross is still looking for a job come February, then the Nats could pounce on a low-cost one year deal, but I think they’d be happy enough going with Tanner Roark and Joe Ross as their fourth and fifth starters if there isn’t value out there.
Keep your eyes peeled for our next Mailbag when we will once again answer your burning questions around the Washington Nationals.