In a much-anticipated move, superstar prospect Victor Robles was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg Monday night, making him the youngest player in the Eastern League even before fellow top prospect Rafael Devers was promoted to Triple-A. Robles promotion resulted in a flurry of theories (and finger pointing emojis) among Nats fans, mainly regarding Robles’ status as a trade chip. Earlier in the week, fellow top outfield prospect Andrew Stevenson received the call to the big leagues following a Chris Heisey injury and Ryan Raburn going on the bereavement list. There weren’t many, but some were calling for Robles to get the promotion in place of Stevenson. While an immediate Robles call-up would be premature, his promotion to AA makes the idea slightly less farfetched. With the calls for Robles’ promotion this weekend, I got thinking: What would a Robles call-up in 2017 look like?
In order to examine how Victor Robles could reach the majors in 2017, we have to look at what role he would play on the major league team. The reason Robles is a nearly unanimous Top 10 prospect in the game is for his unique blend of skills and athleticism; Robles is what some would call a five-tool player. Victor Robles has the talent to become an elite hitter with above-average pop and at least an above-average defender in center field, not to mention his plus-plus speed.
The one area of Robles’ game in which he isn’t major-league ready is without a doubt at the plate. While his intriguing package of nascent power, elite bat speed, and contact ability make him the blue chip prospect that he is, Robles still hasn’t faced much advanced pitching and will need some further polishing in the minor leagues. While Robles may not be ready to face big-league pitching just yet, he is more than major league ready in the field and on the base paths.
Despite only ranking 10th in the Carolina League in stolen bases, Victor Robles is likely close to the fastest, if not the fastest player in the Nationals system. Here is a video from Jeff Israel showcasing the kind of raw speed Robles has.
Robles is just pure speed, bunts for a single to lead off inning. Then gets doubled off on hit and run fly ball to LF pic.twitter.com/LulN91OboM
— Jeff Israel (@JPhils90) July 19, 2017
Speed like this is hard to come by, and while it isn’t enough to carry a player on it’s own, it can be game-changing when applied in the right situations.
The same speed that makes Robles such a terror on the base paths makes him a potentially excellent defender in center field. However there are still questions surrounding Robles’ instincts and route running that limit his current defensive ability. These issues can only be solved with more work and more reps, so it would be a stretch to say Robles will reach his defensive ceiling by season’s end, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be a defensive asset to a contending Nationals team. His best plays accentuate what a great defender he could be:
Editor’s note: Pay no attention to the fact that Robles ends both of these plays by hurting himself.
His raw athleticism and ability to make highlight reel plays on a regular basis usually allow him to make up for his occasional defensive lapses. The fact that Robles has an absolute cannon for an arm further cements him as an above-average defender at perhaps the most important position in the field and an easily plus defender at the corners.
The Nationals’ outfield isn’t lacking in defense by any stretch, and any slight improvement brought by Robles would likely be offset by his lack of production at the plate. Despite this, the fact that Robles is a plus defender would only make his position on the major league roster that much more digestible. There are plenty of fast defensively minded outfielders who can’t hit in the major leagues, so even at his current level of talent, Robles could likely hold an MLB roster spot. Of course, calling up a player badly in need of minor league reps to ride the bench isn’t a good idea, especially when the player is as talented as Robles. Additionally, the Nats will likely want to wait as long as possible to start Robles’ service clock, so a regular season call up is likely out of the picture.
With that said, this doesn’t preclude Robles from a call up entirely. According to the MLB’s service time rules, the postseason is not counted towards a player’s service clock, and this would allow Robles to play out the remainder of the minor league season. Players making their pro debuts in the postseason isn’t even unprecedented, as the Royals’ Raul Mondesi proved in 2015 by making his debut in the World Series. While Robles may not be at his most effective during the regular season, speed and defense are at a premium in the playoffs. Every year, no-bat speedsters such as Terrance Gore and Quintin Berry make post season rosters. The Royals proved in 2015 that speed can take over a game in the postseason, and Robles could add another level to a Nationals team not exactly overflowing with speed off the bench. The fact that Robles isn’t a one dimensional player only adds to his value and would allow him to expand his role.
As with the rest of the farm system, Victor Robles’ status for the rest of the season is far from certain. Injuries and an absolute storm of trade rumors still continue to plague the Nationals, so Robles may not even be on the team come the playoffs. Additionally Robles is blocked on the depth chart by Stevenson, who shares a similar skillset, though he is less talented in all regards. As with Robles, Stevenson has been the center of a plethora of trade rumors and has issues of his own preventing him from a call up. There remain numerous blockades preventing a Robles call up, but should the Nationals choose to select him they will be adding a dynamic player who can transform their bench during a World Series run.Tags: Nationals, Nats, Victor Robles, Washington Nationals