Has Victor Robles turned a corner?
By Reese Evans
Through seven games, Victor Robles is hitting .300. Is the former top-prospect tapping into the potential that led to Washington once labeling him as "untouchable"?
It's early in the season with few bright spots for the Nationals thus far. One of the players performing in the lineup is 25-year-old Victor Robles. In 20 at-bats, the center fielder has six hits, including a double; which was off Tampa Bay's ace, Shane McClanahan. More importantly, he's struck out only twice while walking four times in Washington's seven games.
According to baseball-reference.com, Robles struck out in 25 percent of his plate appearances in 2022. This season, Victor seems to have adjusted his approach at the plate. His hands are slightly lower in his batting stance, keeping his bat in the hitting zone for longer. Putting the ball in play is key for Victor Robles. He cannot steal bases if he strikes out over a fourth of the time.
Flashback to the 2019 season; Robles hit .255 with a .326 OBP while stealing 28 bases. He was a vital piece of the Nationals World Series team. What allowed Robles to excel was being patient at the plate and testing the defense. Victor drew 35 walks in 2019 compared to just 17 in 2022. He also displayed outstanding defense in center field. That defensive ability has kept the center fielder in the lineup, and he was flashing the leather on Opening Day versus Atlanta.
What has changed for Victor Robles?
Patience at the plate. Victor has four walks versus two strikeouts, contributing to his .417 OBP. For reference, Robles posted an abysmal .273 OBP in 2022. The quality of each at-bat for Robles has improved so far in 2023.
Victor has yet to steal a base this season, but I would not be shocked if that changed soon. In 2019, the last time Robles posted an OBP north of .300, he had 28 stolen bases. The 25-year-old has stolen 27 bags in the past three seasons combined. Speed is an integral part of Robles' skillset, and patience at the plate will allow him to reach base more often.
Who gets the credit?
Darnell Coles, Victor Robles, or time? Who do we credit for the turnaround of Victor Robles? It could be too early to tell if he's legitimately flipped the switch. But on April 7th, it seems Victor Robles is forming into a solid hitter. Should Nationals fans be encouraged by the coaching staff "fixing" Robles? Or could Victor be a late bloomer?
A late bloom is the most likely scenario. It doesn't always click from the jump for highly-regarded minor-league prospects. In his rookie season, it seemed that Victor could be an All-star caliber player, but the league has since adjusted to him. Is Robles starting to figure out Major League pitching? His early statistics are encouraging, but we need to see sustained success.
It hasn't been the best start to the season for Washington. Victor Robles' early success is one of the few bright spots. Closely watch Victor's at-bats to see if his adjustments translate throughout the season.