September 7, 2017
The Situation: The Nationals are 18 games up in the NL East and pretty obviously going to the playoffs, but their outfield situation has been a mish-mash ever since Adam Eaton went down for the season in April. Bryce Harper should be back from his own knee injury for the playoffs, but that’s not even a guarantee. In center, Michael Taylor played unexpectedly well in the first half, but has been awful since his return a month ago from an oblique injury. It’s unwise to count too much on the Howie Kendrick resurrection tour to continue with such aplomb in left, and Jayson Werth is a shell of his former self. Victor Robles is among the best prospects left in the minors, has had success (albeit limited) at Double-A, and can play all three outfield spots, so it’s time to get weird.
Background: A fairly unheralded $225,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Robles started turning heads nearly immediately upon his stateside debut in 2015. After demolishing both the complex-level Gulf Coast League and New York-Penn League to the tune of a combined .352/.445/.507 playing the entire year at just 18, we named Robles the 29th-best prospect in baseball before 2016, one of our highest placements ever for such a young international signee yet to play in full-season baseball. Robles continued the devastation on the Low-A South Atlantic League to start 2016, but had his first professional scuffles at High-A in the second half of the season while battling a hand injury, with lower power numbers leading to a just-okay .741 OPS. Despite the minor troubles, Robles was one of the most sought-after prospects as the Nationals made several major trades last winter, but the Nats refused to move him.
Coming into this season, we ranked Robles as the seventh-best prospect in baseball. He confirmed that ranking and more by resuming the demolishing of baseballs in a return engagement in High-A, and then hit .324 for 37 games at Double-A. We moved him up to the no. 4 prospect in baseball at midseason, in strong consideration for the top overall slot.