Victor Robles is a young man with immense talent and potential on the baseball field, and a man of few words off of it. We had the chance to sit down with him prior to the Potomac Nationals game on Saturday after he had done his work in the batting cages. Still carrying his bat, Robles sat down with us and it was apparent that he is already a veteran in giving interviews as he did not give away more than was asked of him. We talked in Spanish to make the interview more comfortable for him.
The 20-year-old outfielder from Santo Domingo Este, Dominican Republic, has been playing baseball since he was nine years old and always knew he wanted to play professionally. He stands 6-feet tall with an athletic build. Unsurprisingly, he has looked to fellow Dominican player David Ortiz for inspiration. Signed by the Washington Nationals in 2014, he has been playing on farm teams in the United States since 2015, when he was only 18-years-old. Robles states it’s difficult being so far from home, but understands that it’s part of the deal to become a major league player.
“It’s a little sad since you’re not close to family,” Victor Robles said. “But you have to do your work. [I talk to family] whenever I have time.”
Robles is the number one rated prospect in the Nationals system, and depending on the rating service you look to, Robles is the 9th best prospect in all of baseball on the Baseball America report and the 8th best if you believe Keith Law. The Nationals have four prospects in the Baseball America top 100: Number 9 Victor Robles, Number 48 Erick Fedde, Number 59 Juan Soto and Number 98 Carter Kieboom.
This fact is not lost on Robles on the ratings, and it garners him a lot of attention. Robles works to ignore it the best he can, however, so he can focus on his game.
“You can’t think about that, you’ve just got to play baseball. You love the game and you can’t think about secondary stuff like that.”
Robles has spent his time so far with the P-Nats improving his game so he can continue to progress through the minors.
“I’ve been able to adjust. The pitchers pitch better, they might pitch the same pitch twice. I can adjust to the pitches, it’s given me a better learning curve.”
Mike Weisman, Director of Media Relations with the PNats, has had the opportunity to watch Robles grow as a player:
“He’s definitely become more consistent, that’s the biggest thing. That’s the toughest part from going from [Low-A] ball to High-A ball. This is probably the toughest level for guys where it splits guys between guys who have the talent but can’t necessarily transition it into becoming an elite level prospect, and then some guys who are able to go with it and adjust.
“You have to make more adjustments in this league than anywhere else in my opinion. He’s made those adjustments. He’s been able to do that, and as he’s done that his numbers have gotten progressively better. The defense has always been there, but the offense is definitely becoming more consistent. He’s adjusting better.”
Robles is fearless on the field. He stands on top of the plate in the batter’s box so he can better cover the outside of the zone. This has left him susceptible to being hit by pitches, which has officially happened 12 times so far this season (unofficially probably closer to 20 times). The team has discussed this with Robles, as getting hit by pitches increases the risk of injury, however he has stuck to his game.
“I’ve tried to change my style, but I can’t change. I like my style and being close to the plate. I don’t have any fear, that’s how I’ve always played.”
Learning to play in the Dominican Republic has likely contributed to the way he plays. Robles doesn’t see the game as any different (“it’s basically the same. 3 strikes, 4 balls, it’s the same idea”), but anyone who watched the World Baseball Classic could see a difference in style with team DR. While being hit by pitches has landed Robles on the DL both last season and this season, his fearlessness is part of what makes him such an exciting player to watch.
As with all minor league players, Robles’ ultimate goal is to play in “The Show”. He was given a chance during spring training to mingle with major league players when he was invited to big league camp. Asked what it was like sharing a clubhouse and playing on the field with Bryce Harper and other stars, Victor Robles smiled.
“This is where we all want to go,” Robles said about the opportunity to play alongside Bryce Harper in Spring Training. “I felt good, I felt [like I was] part of them. It was fun.”
Robles is a five-tool player who can hit for average and for power, and has speed, fielding ability, and a good arm. I asked Weisman if he felt Robles’ talent would translate onto a major league stage:
“For sure. The defense is already there. He doesn’t necessarily always get the greatest jump on balls but he has elite level speed so he can make up for pretty much anything in the outfield and he makes plays that no one should be making. The speed is obviously already there. The power has definitely grown this year, more so than it was last year. That’s the last tool that will develop.
“He’s still only 20 years old, still got room to build on his body and fill in on his frame. [His stats] are what you want to see at this level out of someone like him. He’s still one of the youngest players in the league, even on his 2nd go around, so if things progress then sure. I think Andrew McCutchen is the obvious 5 tool type player that many people have compared him to. That’s the type of player he very well could be. There’s still a way to go. He’s not ready to contribute right now [at the Major League level]. And I don’t think anyone really thinks that that’s the way to go, but if he progresses at the rate he’s going — then yeah, he should be able to get to that point.”
Some have also compared Robles to Alfonso Soriano who once played for the Washington Nationals and set some records fit for the ultimate power/speed players who can hit at least 40 home runs in a season as well as stealing at least 40 bases in a season. Soriano joined that elite club in 2006 for the Nationals.
Robles’ current slash line is .285/.382/.491/.873, making him a prime candidate to be promoted to Double-A Harrisburg soon. Despite his subdued nature off the field, he is an exciting player to watch during games. He’ll make a fantastic addition to the Nats outfield one day.
If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, take the time to get over to Woodbridge to see a Potomac Nationals game before Victor Robles is promoted to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.