Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Washington Nationals

news

Nationals Pipeline

Robles ready to take next step in 2018

Nats' top prospect likely to start season in Minors, but not far off from Majors
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Victor Robles is going to play every day to start the 2018 season. The Nationals have stayed firm on that about their top prospect and one of the most electric talents in all of baseball.

The question is where Robles -- the No. 3 overall prospect in baseball as rated by MLB Pipeline -- will take his at-bats every day. The Nationals' starting outfield in the Majors is all but set, with Bryce Harper in right field, Michael A. Taylor in center field and Adam Eaton shifting to left field. Barring injuries, those spots are virtual locks, with Brian Goodwin set to begin the season as the fourth outfielder.

WASHINGTON -- Victor Robles is going to play every day to start the 2018 season. The Nationals have stayed firm on that about their top prospect and one of the most electric talents in all of baseball.

The question is where Robles -- the No. 3 overall prospect in baseball as rated by MLB Pipeline -- will take his at-bats every day. The Nationals' starting outfield in the Majors is all but set, with Bryce Harper in right field, Michael A. Taylor in center field and Adam Eaton shifting to left field. Barring injuries, those spots are virtual locks, with Brian Goodwin set to begin the season as the fourth outfielder.

So it would appear Robles is destined to begin the season in the Minors, although his talent has altered the Nationals' plans before.

Nationals' Top 30 Prospects

Robles exceeded expectations within the organization when his performance earned him a promotion to the Majors as a September callup in 2017. The team was so impressed with Robles during that one-month stint -- where he flashed his blazing speed and did not appear uncomfortable facing Major League pitching -- that he earned a spot on the roster for the National League Division Series. Perhaps once again Robles could change the team's plans.

"It's never a bad idea to get Minor League at-bats," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said last month. "That's never a bad thing. But he forced his way onto the playoff roster last year, and we're going to give him every opportunity to force his way onto the big league roster."

Video: Robles on most exciting moment with Nationals in 2017

Robles will admit he did not expect to get the call to Washington last September, considering he was busy preparing to go play in the Arizona Fall League then. But he made the most of his opportunity once it was presented to him.

"The truth is that I wasn't expecting it," Robles said in Spanish at the Rookie Career Development Program. "But I was prepared for that because I was working hard, and that is the wish of every ballplayer -- to be brought up to the big leagues. Everything I did, I did it like a big leaguer because I was prepared for that, but I didn't expect it."

However, the Nationals have little reason to rush Robles. Their outfield picture is already crowded and should be one of the team's strengths next season. Robles, who is still only 20 years old, is inexperienced at the upper levels of the Minors, with only 37 games under his belt at Double-A and none at Triple-A. He appeared in 13 games for the Nationals in September and two NLDS games.

It seems likely the Nationals will be content to start Robles at Triple-A Syracuse, where he can continue to get seasoning and be ready if an injury occurs or Taylor regresses into some of his previous struggles. But eventually the Nationals are counting on Robles to force their hand again.

"My goal for 2018 is to continue to do the same things," Robles said. "When something is good, you can't change it. So keep doing the same things and working hard to show them that I can be part of the big league team.

"I'd understand that [opening 2018 in the Minors] would be part of my development, but I'm going to get [to Spring Training] ready to show them that I can start out on the big league team."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals, Victor Robles

Inbox: Will Nats sign Ohtani, bullpen help?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier fields questions from fans
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Hot Stove season has gotten off to a slow start across Major League Baseball and the Nationals are no exception. Once the club completed the hiring of its coaching staff, it has not made any additions to the roster for next season.

Still, there are a few questions to consider for the latest Inbox.

WASHINGTON -- The Hot Stove season has gotten off to a slow start across Major League Baseball and the Nationals are no exception. Once the club completed the hiring of its coaching staff, it has not made any additions to the roster for next season.

Still, there are a few questions to consider for the latest Inbox.

• Submit an Inbox question

Is there a realistic shot at Shohei Ohtani? What would the plan be if they did get him?
-- @funnydanny via Twitter

The odds are probably not great. Yes, earlier this week general manager Mike Rizzo outlined his sales pitch for Shohei Ohtani and the Nationals did respond to the questionnaire the Japanese star sent to all 30 Major League teams. It's hard to find a reason why any team wouldn't want to make its pitch to Ohtani, who, because of international signing rules, many around baseball will view as a bargain. He can throw a fastball that has reached 100 mph and is a power-hitting outfielder.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

At 23 years old, Ohtani is as enticing and exciting of a superstar to hit the open market in a while. Plus, he will be limited to a signing bonus that can be at best $3.5 million. The Major League team that signs him will also owe his Nippon Professional Baseball team $20 million. Fitting him in would be easy too; he could slide in as the Nats' fifth starter and either be part of an outfield rotation when he is not pitching or Washington could use its surplus and trade an outfielder.

The issue for the Nationals -- and a reason I believe their chances of landing Ohtani are slim -- is they can not match other teams' spending power because of their limitations in international spending. The most the Nats can offer Ohtani in a signing bonus is $300,000. Even if Ohtani is not looking out primarily for money, that is a significant gap. Teams with a bigger budget such as the Yankees or Rangers could offer nearly $3.5 million. Also, while certainly not out of the question, the Nats paying the $20 million sum to his NPB team would be a little out of character in comparison to their normal spending habits.

So Washington is unlikely to be a strong contender for Ohtani unless he finds the team's response to the questionnaire particularly enticing.

What is the Nationals' level of interest in the Braves prospects who were released? Obviously, Kevin Maitan is of particular interest, but I'd be interested to hear about others.
-- @ZackMatt4 via Twitter

Similar to the Ohtani questions, the Nationals don't have the bonus money to make a significant push for the recently released Braves prospects. The most Washington can offer prospects is also $300,000, and other teams will be able to offer more money. So their limits in international spending will hinder the Nats again.

What position do the Nationals need to pay attention to most this offseason?
-- @TheDCBullpen via Twitter

I've thought the biggest need will be in the bullpen. Yes, this time the Nats have the back end of the bullpen set with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson both signed, but they are lacking in depth behind them. Adding another strong middle reliever or two would be key to the construction of a strong and reliable bullpen -- which, as we have seen in recent years, has made a big difference during the postseason.

What's the plan with Robles?
-- @JPFinlayNBCS via Twitter

The Nationals want Victor Robles to play every day in 2018. Rizzo has also confirmed that Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor would be the starting outfielders if the season began today. That would indicate that Robles is set to begin the season at Triple-A Syracuse, barring injury.

Video: WEST@EAST: Robles gets lead, shows big speed on steal

Robles, ranked as the club's top prospect and No. 2 overall in MLB according to MLBPipeline.com, made strides last season to make the Majors and make the postseason roster. Still, the Nats want him to develop more as a hitter before he is ready to be an everyday Major League player. Robles can certainly force the action by playing well, but he will likely begin the year in the Minors even though he is still likely to become an everyday outfielder for the Nationals at some point soon.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals

Red Sox protect 3 pitchers with roster adds

Boston fills 40-man to capacity with Beeks, Shepherd, Buttrey moves
MLB.com

BOSTON -- The Red Sox added pitching prospects Jalen Beeks, Chandler Shepherd and Ty Buttrey to the 40-man roster on Monday, protecting them for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at the Winter Meetings on Dec. 14 in Orlando, Fla.

With the moves, Boston's roster is now at 40, which means the team would have to clear spots for any Hot Stove acquisitions that take place in the coming weeks.

BOSTON -- The Red Sox added pitching prospects Jalen Beeks, Chandler Shepherd and Ty Buttrey to the 40-man roster on Monday, protecting them for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at the Winter Meetings on Dec. 14 in Orlando, Fla.

With the moves, Boston's roster is now at 40, which means the team would have to clear spots for any Hot Stove acquisitions that take place in the coming weeks.

Beeks, a left-hander, is Boston's No. 16 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com.

The 24-year-old was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year by the Red Sox in 2017 after going 11-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 26 starts for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He struck out 9.62 per nine innings and held opponents to a .224 batting average. Beeks was a college teammate of Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi at the University of Arkansas in 2014. Boston selected him in the 12th round of the 2014 Draft.

Buttrey is a righty reliever who notched 74 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings while splitting the 2017 season between Portland and Pawtucket. The Red Sox took the 24-year-old in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft.

Shepherd, 25, was an invite to Major League camp by the Red Sox in '17, and was one of the final cuts. The 25-year-old righty made all but one of his 34 appearances for Pawtucket as a reliever while pitching his fourth year in Boston's farm system. He went 1-5 with a 4.07 ERA while striking out 68 and walking 18 in 59 2/3 innings. Shepherd was a 13th-round selection in 2014, and he has a 3.42 ERA and 15 saves in 125 Minor League appearances. He is ranked as Boston's No. 21 prospect.

Video: BOS@MIN: Shepherd strikes out Castro in the 5th

The deadline for all teams to submit their 40-man rosters was Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

Players first signed at 18 years old must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons.

Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.

Right-handers Jake Cosart, Kyle Martin and Hildemaro Requena as well as left-hander Jhonathan Diaz, who are all among Boston's Top 30 prospects, were left unprotected.

The Red Sox' roster is as follows:

Pitchers (24)
Matt Barnes, Jalen Beeks, Ty Buttrey, Roenis Elias, Heath Hembree, Williams Jerez, Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Austin Maddox, Henry Owens, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Robby Scott, Chandler Shepherd, Carson Smith, Ben Taylor, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, Brandon Workman, Steven Wright

Catchers (3)
Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez

Infielders (9)
Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, Tzu-Wei Lin, Deven Marrero, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Sam Travis

Outfielders (4)
Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Bryce Brentz

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

 

Washington Nationals

Nats protect Gutierrez, Rodriguez from Rule 5

MLB.com

The Nationals added third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez and right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez to their 40-man roster before Monday's 8 p.m. ET deadline to protect players from being selected in December's Rule 5 Draft.

Some of the Nationals' most valued prospects were already moved to the 40-man roster over this past season, including Victor Robles, Erick Fedde and Andrew Stevenson. Earlier this month, the team also added reliever Wander Suero to its roster, which now stands at 37 players.

The Nationals added third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez and right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez to their 40-man roster before Monday's 8 p.m. ET deadline to protect players from being selected in December's Rule 5 Draft.

Some of the Nationals' most valued prospects were already moved to the 40-man roster over this past season, including Victor Robles, Erick Fedde and Andrew Stevenson. Earlier this month, the team also added reliever Wander Suero to its roster, which now stands at 37 players.

Gutierrez is ranked as the club's No. 12 prospect by MLBPipeline.com while Rodriguez is not a top-30 prospect, but the organization did not want to risk losing either player in the Rule 5 Draft.

Gutierrez -- a Pimentel, Dominican Republic, native, who was originally signed as a free agent in April 2013 -- was named a Carolina League midseason All-Star in 2017 as he batted .288 with 18 extra-base hits (including two homers) and 16 RBIs while scoring 34 runs in the season's first half for Class A Advanced Potomac. During the Arizona Fall League, he received reps at first base as well and posted a slash line of .350/.438/.475 with a triple, a homer and nine RBIs in 13 games for the Mesa Solar Sox.

Video: Kelvin Gutierrez discusses his triple vs. Salt River

Rodriguez, 24, went 4-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 12 appearances (10 starts) while striking out 51 batters in 57 innings for Potomac this past season. He is 19-28 with a 4.35 ERA and 339 strikeouts in 415 2/3 frames across 89 appearances (86 starts) in parts of five Minor League seasons. He was originally signed as a free agent in January 2012 from the Dominican Republic.

A few notable players left unprotected and off the 40-man roster include third baseman Drew Ward and catcher Taylor Gushue. Ward is ranked the club's No. 18 prospect, and after a solid 2016 during which he made strides with his power numbers -- .412 slugging percentage with 14 home runs -- those numbers regressed in '17 -- .356 slugging percentage with 10 home runs. Gushue (No. 23) had a solid season with 18 home runs and a .745 OPS before playing in the Arizona Fall League.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals

Nats' Robles wins Fall Stars Game MVP

Baseball's No. 2 prospect displays impressive skills, scores twice in showcase
MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Victor Robles is the highest rated prospect in the Arizona Fall League, and it was easy to see why as he put the bulk of his toolset on display in the annual Fall Stars Game.

The No. 2 overall prospect (Nationals' No. 1) stuffed the box score, going 1-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored en route to winning MVP honors in the East's 4-2 win over the West on Saturday night at Salt River Fields.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Victor Robles is the highest rated prospect in the Arizona Fall League, and it was easy to see why as he put the bulk of his toolset on display in the annual Fall Stars Game.

The No. 2 overall prospect (Nationals' No. 1) stuffed the box score, going 1-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored en route to winning MVP honors in the East's 4-2 win over the West on Saturday night at Salt River Fields.

:: 2017 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game ::

"[I'm] taking advantage of it," Robles said through interpreter Jacob Cruz when asked about his experience in the AFL. "[I'm] coming out here and really trying to do [my] best, so the team, the Nationals, take a look and see [I'm] trying to do better."

Robles, batting atop the East lineup, put his 70-grade speed on display right away as he drew a walk to open the game and stole second four pitches later.

The 20-year-old outfielder posted a 30.2 feet-per-second maximum sprint speed, according to Statcast™, and got to second base in 3.79 seconds. The stolen base paid off as Robles later scored the first run of the game on an RBI groundout from Orioles No. 3 prospect Ryan Mountcastle.

Video: WEST@EAST: Robles gets lead, shows big speed on steal

Robles was held in check in his next two at-bats, but he came through in the eighth when his team needed a hit.

Down 2-1 in the eighth, Robles came to the plate with one out and a runner on second and brought home the tying run with a base hit to right field.

"Absolutely," Robles said, when asked if it was extra special to come through in the clutch and win the game's MVP award. "[I'm] working hard and it's paying off."

Video: WEST@EAST: Robles ties it with an RBI single in 8th

While baseball is work for the athletes, it's also a game that is meant to be enjoyed, and Robles was certainly having fun after his game-tying single.

The Nationals prospect could be seen joking around with Josh Naylor (Padres' No. 10) and placed a handful of dirt in the first baseman's pocket.

"It's a game," Robles said. "I go out and approach it as a game, have fun and appreciate the experience."

However, as is often the case, Robles wasn't on first base with Naylor very long. Corey Ray (Brewers' No. 2, MLB No. 58) drew a walk, which pushed Robles to second and Sheldon Neuse (Athletics' No. 14) followed up with an RBI single, plating Robles as the go-ahead run.

William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

 

Washington Nationals

Nats top prospect Robles wastes no time in AFL debut

MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Victor Robles debuted in the Arizona Fall League on Monday night, and he didn't waste much time in proving how dynamic he is.

The center fielder, No. 2 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list and the Nationals' No. 1, most recently was seen scoring a run as a pinch-hitter on a Bryce Harper home run in the National League Division Series.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Victor Robles debuted in the Arizona Fall League on Monday night, and he didn't waste much time in proving how dynamic he is.

The center fielder, No. 2 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list and the Nationals' No. 1, most recently was seen scoring a run as a pinch-hitter on a Bryce Harper home run in the National League Division Series.

On Monday, he was all over the basepaths at Scottsdale Stadium in his first Fall League game as his Mesa Solar Sox beat the home Scottsdale Scorpions, 5-2.

Gameday

Robles led off the game and flashed his speed, legging out an infield single on what looked like a routine ground ball to third base. Two batters later, he took third base on a single by Kody Eaves (Tigers). He then scored with two outs on a wild pitch by Justus Sheffield, the Scottsdale starter and the Yankees' No. 4 prospect (79th overall).

"What can I say about him?" said Mesa manager Omar Lopez. "I think right now our team is going to have a lot of speed on the field and he's going to be very impressive every single night that he steps out onto the field.

"We talked to him before the game about the plan for him, and I think he showed up tonight and proved it."

Robles wasn't done, either. In the top of the fifth, with his team leading, 2-1, he again was a catalyst, singling on hard line drive, stealing second base, and scoring an insurance run on a single by A.J. Simcox (Tigers).

"It's a good league, I'm going to develop here," Robles said through interpreter Jacob Cruz. "It's a good opportunity that I want to take advantage of."

Robles should know considering he's only 20 and he's already played in the best league on the planet.

The Dominican Republic native went 6-for-24 (.250) with a double, two triples and four RBIs in 13 games during the regular season for Washington, showcasing his elite speed, which got him on the postseason roster. He entered as a pinch-runner and scored on Harper's game-tying home run in the eighth inning of the Nationals' Game 2 win over the Cubs.

Video: CHC@WSH Gm2: Harper's two-run homer ties game

The phenom batted .289 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 77 games for Class A Advanced Potomac before hitting .324 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 37 games for Harrisburg upon a promotion to Double-A.

In 2013, Robles was named a midseason All-Star in the South Atlantic League, and he competed in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in 2017.

That Major League stint delayed his addition to the AFL roster for a few weeks, but Robles will take those memories with him as he tries to keep improving in the desert.

"All baseball players want to reach the big leagues, to be there," Robles said. "It was an unbelievable and unforgettable experience. And it felt really good that the team gave me the opportunity."

Other standouts in Monday's game included Sheffield, who went 4 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on five hits while striking out six, and Mesa starter Alec Mills (Cubs No. 20), who gave up one run on five hits in four innings and struck out six.

Cam Gibson (Tigers) chipped in with an RBI single for Mesa and Charcer Burks (Cubs' No. 22) doubled for the Solar Sox.

David Thompson (Mets' No. 24) tripled and scored a run for Scottsdale, which also got an RBI double from catcher Tomas Nido (Mets' No. 9) and an RBI single from shortstop Kyle Holder (Yankees). Solar Sox designated hitter Kyle Tucker, the Astros' top-rated prospect and MLBPipeline.com's No. 7 overall prospect, went 0-for-3 with a walk.

Mets No. 11 prospect Luis Guillorme made the defensive play of the night, robbing Jason Vosler (Cubs) of a single in the second inning with a diving stop of a ground ball and throw to first.

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: Luis Guillorme, the @Mets' No. 11 prospect, flashed the leather with this robbery at second in the AFL. Gameday:��https://t.co/FUwbHYObm8 pic.twitter.com/zD5zXx5ER6

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.

 

Washington Nationals

How they were built: Nationals

National League East champs bolstered by seven free agents
MLB.com

MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.

The Washington Nationals are back in the postseason after winning their second straight National League East title, as well as their sixth in the past seven years. But after losing back-to-back games against the Dodgers in last year's NLDS and failing to advance beyond the NLCS in four straight postseason appearances, the Nationals have much to prove in 2017.

MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.

The Washington Nationals are back in the postseason after winning their second straight National League East title, as well as their sixth in the past seven years. But after losing back-to-back games against the Dodgers in last year's NLDS and failing to advance beyond the NLCS in four straight postseason appearances, the Nationals have much to prove in 2017.

That the Nationals finished the regular season with a 97-65 overall record and 20 games ahead of the second-place Marlins in the East was particularly impressive, considering that the team was once again decimated by injuries to its key players, both hitters and pitchers.

All three of Washington's projected outfielders spent significant time on the disabled list this season. A torn ACL suffered while running through first base in late April cost Adam Eaton, acquired from the White Sox in an offseason blockbuster, his first Nats campaign, and Jayson Werth spent more than three months on the shelf with a broken foot. Bryce Harper also suffered a gruesome-looking knee injury in August while running through first base, though Washington's sizeable lead in the division allowed the club to fully rest its All-Star right fielder to ensure his return ahead of the postseason.

:: How each postseason team was built ::

The injuries didn't end there for Nationals hitters, as shortstop Trea Turner was kept out of action for two months during the heart of the season with a broken wrist after he was hit by a pitch late in June. On the mound, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg both made a trip to the DL for minor injuries, with Strasburg's absence for nearly a month marking the longer of the two. Joe Ross is unlikely to take the mound until late next season after he underwent Tommy John surgery in July, and Opening Day closer Koda Glover saw his season end prematurely in July due to lower back stiffness.

Yet even with a seemingly season-long rash of injuries, the Nationals' offense was arguably the best in franchise history in 2017, scoring a franchise-record 811 runs to blow well past the club's 2016 total of 763. The Nats also established a new franchise best with 213 home runs, a product of four hitters producing at least 20 homers and a total of 10 finishing with double-digit homers. All-Stars Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman were the main cogs in Washington's offense and proved vital in helping the team compensate for a steady stream of injuries. Murphy turned in another MVP-caliber performance in his second year with the organization, while Zimmerman, at age 33, set a career-high with 36 home runs while driving in 108 and playing in over 140 games for the first time since 2013.

The cumulative struggles of Nationals relievers during the first half prompted general manager Mike Rizzo to bolster his bullpen at the non-waiver Trade Deadline through deals for veteran relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson (from Oakland) as well as Brandon Kintzler (from the Twins). The pair of trades provided the club with much needed consistency in the late innings, instantly transforming an inconsistent and inexperienced bullpen into one capable of neutralizing a postseason offense.

HOMEGROWN

Player, how acquired, year, 2017 Baseball-Reference WAR (24.3):
Wilmer Difo, Int'l sign, 2010, 1.9
Bryce Harper, Draft, 2010 (1st round), 4.7
Anthony Rendon, Draft, 2011 (1st), 5.9
Brian Goodwin, Draft, 2011 (1st), 0.3
Victor Robles, Int'l sign, 2013, 0.0
Sammy Solis, Draft, 2010 (2nd), -0.2
Stephen Strasburg, Draft, 2009 (1st), 6.4
Michael A. Taylor, Draft, 2009 (6th), 2.6
Ryan Zimmerman, Draft, 2005 (1st), 2.7

The Nationals projected roster features nine homegrown players, roughly the average for this year's eight postseason teams. The group includes four former first-round Draft picks in Zimmerman (2005), Strasburg (2009), Harper (2010) and Rendon (2011). The Nationals selections of Strasburg and Harper with the No. 1 overall pick in back-to-back years sparked the franchise's turnaround, while the addition of Rendon with the No. 6 pick the following year gave the organization another franchise cornerstone.

Zimmerman's career-best season helped make the losses of Eaton, Turner and Harper manageable for the Nationals, and the same can be said for Rendon's steady contributions. Together the duo combined to swat 61 home runs with 208 RBIs in 2017, with Harper adding another 29 homers.

While the aforementioned injuries were undeniably costly, they did open the door for players such as Difo and Taylor to showcase their abilities as everyday players. Taylor, a 2009 sixth-rounder, made the most of his opportunity by hitting .271 with 19 homers and 17 steals in the wake of Harper's injury. Difo, meanwhile, proved to be a valuable utility player, seeing time at both middle-infield positions along with some work in center field.

The Nats' depleted outfield also created an opportunity for top prospect Victor Robles, who, at age 20, became the youngest player to appear in a Major League game this season when he debuted on Sept. 7. Though his playing time was limited down the stretch, Robles, with his loud tools and ability to impact games on both sides of the ball, forced his way onto Washington's playoff roster.

TRADES/WAIVERS

Player, year, acquired from, bWAR (13.6):
Sean Doolittle, 2017, Athletics, 1.0
Gio Gonzalez, 2011, Athletics, 6.5
Howie Kendrick, 2017, Phillies, 0.1
Brandon Kintzler, 2017, Twins, 0.6
Jose Lobaton, 2014, Rays, -0.1
Ryan Madson, 2017, Athletics, 1.0
Tanner Roark, 2010, Rangers, 1.2
Trea Turner, 2015, Padres, 2.7
Enny Romero, 2017, Rays, 0.6

Despite missing a portion of the season due to injury, Turner still managed to build on his impressive 2016 debut with the Nationals. The 24-year-old shortstop stole 46 bases in just 98 games to set a new franchise record, and did so while hitting .284 with 41 extra-base hits including 11 home runs.

Gonzalez and Roark were both healthy and consistent in 2017 as they combined to log 381 1/3 innings while making 62 starts. The former had an especially strong campaign, finishing with a 2.96 ERA in his first 195-inning-plus season since 2013.

Video: Nationals' improved bullpen via trades pays off

A year after making a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal for closer Mark Melancon from Pittsburgh, Rizzo once again used the month of July to bolster his team's bullpen -- one that ranked dead last among all 30 teams during the first half with a 5.20 ERA.

The additions of Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler changed that, as the trio combined to record 71 strikeouts and 16 walks in 75 2/3 innings after joining the Nationals via trades. Madson (1.37 ERA, .186 BAA) and Kintzler (3.46 ERA) have been invaluable as setup men for Doolittle, who went 21 for 22 in save opportunities with a 2.40 ERA. 

Kendrick, meanwhile, did nothing but rake following his acquisition from Philly, posting a .293 average with seven homers in 51 games.

FREE AGENTS

Player, year, bWAR (12.3):
Matt Albers, 2017, 2.4
Adam Lind, 2017, 0.8
Daniel Murphy, 2015, 2.8
Oliver Perez, 2015, 0.3
Max Scherzer, 2015, 7.2
Jayson Werth, 2010, -0.7
Matt Wieters, 2017, -0.5

The Nationals are set to open the Division Series with seven free agents on their projected roster, second most among all playoff teams. Murphy, in the second year of a three-year, $37.5 million deal, enjoyed another monster season, as the 32-year-old second baseman connected on 23 homers and 43 doubles while hitting .318 with a .919 OPS.

Scherzer, of course, turned in another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2017, reaffirming his status as one of baseball's premier starting pitchers. In the third year of a seven-year, $210 million contract, the right-hander finished first among National League hurlers with 268 strikeouts and WHIP (0.90), with a 2.51 ERA that ranked second in the circuit.

Video: Mayo breaks down Nationals' signings

Shawn Kelley, the recipient of a three-year, $15 million deal prior to the 2016 season, struggled to hold down the closer role early in the season, which enabled Albers to record his first career save early in May at age 34. Albers would go on to post a 1.62 ERA with a .166 batting average against while appearing in a team-high 63 games -- tremendous value for the Nats after they inked him to a one-year, $1.15 million deal during the offseason.

Wieters was one of the few notable remaining free agents still on the market before he and the Nats agreed on a two-year contract with a player opt-out after one year in February. Signed as a replacement for departed free agent Wilson Ramos, the 31-year-old veteran backstop and former first-round Draft pick filled in admirably by hitting 10 homers and driving in 52 runs, all while handling one of the best rotation's in baseball.

Lind, 34, also proved a valuable piece for the Nationals, hitting .303 with an .875 OPS and 14 home runs in 116 games after inking a one-year, $1 million deal in February.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

 

Washington Nationals

Robles, Fedde named Nats Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Even after an off-season where the Nationals pulled off the most aggressive unloading of prospects in general manager Mike Rizzo's tenure with the team, their Minor League system remains strong at the top.

Outfielder Victor Robles and right-hander Erick Fedde, the team's top hitting and pitching prospect, each made it to the Majors this season and have been named MLB Pipeline's Prospects of the Year for the Nationals. Robles is the No. 2 overall prospect in MLB while Fedde is ranked fourth in the Nationals system and is the team's best pitching prospect.

WASHINGTON -- Even after an off-season where the Nationals pulled off the most aggressive unloading of prospects in general manager Mike Rizzo's tenure with the team, their Minor League system remains strong at the top.

Outfielder Victor Robles and right-hander Erick Fedde, the team's top hitting and pitching prospect, each made it to the Majors this season and have been named MLB Pipeline's Prospects of the Year for the Nationals. Robles is the No. 2 overall prospect in MLB while Fedde is ranked fourth in the Nationals system and is the team's best pitching prospect.

Nationals' Prospects of the Year

Each team's prospects of the year were selected by the MLBPipeline.com staff. In order to receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors, appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list and played in the organization for the entire year.

Robles, 20, has ascended through the Minor Leagues and into the Majors sooner than expected on his way to making his Major League debut on Sept. 7. He has received limited playing time in Washington, but has managed to make himself a real threat to make the Nationals postseason bench.

Video: PHI@WSH: Robles tallies first MLB hit with RBI double

He spent the Minor League portion of his season between the Class A Advanced and Double A levels, where he posted an .875 OPS with 10 home runs and 27 stolen bases.

Fedde's time in Washington did not go as smoothly as he made three starts with a 9.39 ERA before being shut down with a right forearm flexor strain. Still, Fedde, 24, showed glimpses of why Washington believes he can compete for a rotation spot next season.

Video: Top Prospects: Erick Fedde, RHP, Nationals

Between Double and Triple A this season, Fedde appeared in 29 games, 13 as a starter with a stint in the bullpen sandwiched in between when Washington seemed desperate for bullpen help. Fedde threw 90 1/3 innings with a 3.69 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.

Robles and Fedde are two major reasons why the Nats farm system remains strong, despite unloading talented prospects this winter, such as Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to the White Sox in the trade that brought Adam Eaton to Washington. And their stellar performance this season continues to give the Nationals an encouraging future.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals

Prospect Robles flashes game-changing speed

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Once Washington's dugout got a glimpse of Victor Robles' speed in action, it was instantly impressed. When Robles hit his first triple in the Nationals' 5-2 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park, it prompted Bryce Harper to turn to Trea Turner, who up to that point had been the undisputed fastest player on the club.

"He just kind of told him, 'Ah, don't worry about it, you're still the fastest guy here,'" Robles said through an interpreter.

Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- Once Washington's dugout got a glimpse of Victor Robles' speed in action, it was instantly impressed. When Robles hit his first triple in the Nationals' 5-2 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park, it prompted Bryce Harper to turn to Trea Turner, who up to that point had been the undisputed fastest player on the club.

"He just kind of told him, 'Ah, don't worry about it, you're still the fastest guy here,'" Robles said through an interpreter.

Full Game Coverage

Although his time with the Nationals has been brief, Robles -- the organization's top prospect and No. 3 overall as rated by MLBPipeline.com -- has already started to make an impact. On Thursday, he went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and that RBI triple to help spark the Nationals' offense.

On his first career triple in the fourth inning, Robles sprinted from home to third in 11.12 seconds, the fastest time for any Nationals player since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. It narrowly beat out a triple by Turner on July 24, 2016, when he reached third base in 11.14 seconds.

Robles, still only 20 years old and the youngest player in the Majors, has played in just five games. But he is 3-for-9 and could have two triples, but he slid past third base and was ruled out with a double during his first Major League hit on Sunday.

"You've got to like what you see," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "You see why everybody wanted to trade for him and see why we didn't give him up and include him in any of those trades. He can be an impact player. You like what you see."

Video: PHI@WSH: Robles tallies first MLB hit with RBI double

The Nationals are likely going to need another outfielder for the postseason roster with Brian Goodwin almost certainty done for the season with a groin injury. That could leave the door open for Robles, if he continues to play well when he receives playing time.

"He's lightning fast. He's just like Trea," right-hander Tanner Roark said. "He's been big for us so far. He's really taken advantage of the opportunity whenever he's gotten the chance to go out there and show his stuff."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals

What to expect from Nats' Robles in big leagues

MLB.com

One of the top prospects in baseball is headed to the Major Leagues, as the Nationals announced on Thursday that they would select the contract of outfielder Victor Robles from Double-A Harrisburg.

Currently the No. 4 prospect on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 list, Robles, at 20 years and 111 days, will become the youngest player to appear in a Major League game this season when he makes his Nats debut.

One of the top prospects in baseball is headed to the Major Leagues, as the Nationals announced on Thursday that they would select the contract of outfielder Victor Robles from Double-A Harrisburg.

Currently the No. 4 prospect on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 list, Robles, at 20 years and 111 days, will become the youngest player to appear in a Major League game this season when he makes his Nats debut.

While it's not yet clear how much playing time the Nationals will offer their top prospect during the final month of the season, there's every reason to believe that Robles, with his explosive athleticism and five legitimate tools, will make an immediate impact if given the opportunity.

Playing in his second full-season campaign in 2017, Robles produced a .300/.382/.493 batting line over a career-high 114 games between Harrisburg and Class A Advanced Potomac. He combined to hit a career-high 10 home runs and 37 doubles between the two stops, while also scoring 73 runs and going 27-for-37 in stolen-base attempts.

Video: Top Prospects: Victor Robles, OF, Nationals

Signed for $225,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Robles has done nothing but impress during his quick rise through the Minor Leagues. He finished his 2015 U.S. debut as the youngest everyday player in the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League and then earned midseason All-Star honors with Class A Hagerstown before advancing to Class A Potomac last year in his full-season debut

Tabbed as MLBPipeline.com's preseason No. 8 prospect, Robles returned to the Carolina League this season to slash .289/.377/.495 with 39 extra-base hits and 16 steals in 77 games. The performance earned the young outfielder a spot in the 2017 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, where he drove in a run for the World Team with a sacrifice fly.

Yet, it wasn't until Robles was promoted to Double-A in late July that he truly found his stride at the plate. Playing in 37 games with Harrisburg, he batted a robust .324/.394/.489 with 16 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases.

Equally important were the improvements in Robles' plate discipline at the more advanced level, as he maintained a steady walk rate while also trimming his strikeout rate considerably. After registering an 18.3 percent strikeout rate with Potomac, Robles fanned in just 13.9 percent of his 158 plate appearances in the Eastern League.

From a scouting standpoint, Robles' collection of tools are among the best in the Minor Leagues, with all five of them grading as average or better (on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is average).

A 6-foot, 185-pounder, Robles has the ingredients to become a plus hitter from the right side of the plate, with a compact but explosive swing, excellent bat-to-ball skills and present feel for using the whole field. There's plenty of pop in his bat as well, and he's shown the ability to apply it in games with greater consistency this season en route to a career-high 55 extra-base hits, a sizeable increase over his 34 extra-base hits in 2016.

Video: Mike Rosenbaum discusses Victor Robles' potential

Robles' approach, pitch recognition and overall strike zone judgment are all advanced beyond his years and fuel his strong on-base skills. The same can be said for his propensity for getting hit by pitches, something he's done 21 times this season after ranking second in the Minors last season with 34.

Robles' loudest tool is his plus-plus speed, and he's long proved adept at using his wheels to impact games on the bases as well as in center field. Defensively, he has exceptional range and instincts that make him a lock to remain up the middle, with arm strength that's among the best in the Minors at the position and suitable for either outfield corner.

That defensive versatility, along with Robles' undeniable upside at the plate, could help the young outfielder crack the Nationals' lineup down the stretch as the club continues its push to challenge the Dodgers for the National League's best record.

Even if Robles doesn't see much action in the season's final month, the mere fact that Washington opted to promote the tantalizing 20-year-old suggests he could be in the mix for an everyday role with the club in 2018.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

 

Washington Nationals

Nationals call up top prospect Robles

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The phone call left Victor Robles searching for words. He was planning to spend September in the instructional league to prepare before he was bound for the Arizona Fall League this October. Instead, he was informed he would be headed to the Majors.

Robles -- the club's 20-year-old top prospect with five-tool ability that has made him MLBPipeline.com's No. 4 overall prospect in MLB -- was promoted from Double-A to Washington on Thursday as part of the team's September callups. The move came as a bit of a surprise; however, outfielder Brian Goodwin suffered a setback in the rehab of his groin injury, according to manager Dusty Baker, which means he is likely done for the season.

Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- The phone call left Victor Robles searching for words. He was planning to spend September in the instructional league to prepare before he was bound for the Arizona Fall League this October. Instead, he was informed he would be headed to the Majors.

Robles -- the club's 20-year-old top prospect with five-tool ability that has made him MLBPipeline.com's No. 4 overall prospect in MLB -- was promoted from Double-A to Washington on Thursday as part of the team's September callups. The move came as a bit of a surprise; however, outfielder Brian Goodwin suffered a setback in the rehab of his groin injury, according to manager Dusty Baker, which means he is likely done for the season.

Full Game Coverage

That cleared the way for Robles to enter the fold, although he seems likely to be used as extra outfield insurance. Washington also recalled outfielders Rafael Bautista and Andrew Stevenson from Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday (while transferring right-hander Erick Fedde, the team's top pitching prospect, to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Robles). Baker said he was not entirely sure how much playing time Robles would get, but he could be called upon to pinch-hit or run and Baker said he would try to get him a start or two.

"First, you got to kind of earn your stripes," Baker said. "You're here to learn more than you're here to play."

If Robles does not receive consistent playing time, it would make it difficult to see a way Robles could play himself onto the Nationals postseason roster.

Both Stevenson and Bautista have played with Washington earlier this season, and both have speed and play good defense, so they would likely be ahead of Robles on the depth chart if a spot for an outfielder has opened up on a postseason roster thanks to Goodwin's setback. Baker also said he has heard Robles is still prone to baserunning mistakes at times as a young player, and the postseason would be no time for such an error.

Robles could change things during the next few weeks if he proves he is ready for the Majors right now. In 114 games between Class A Advanced Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg this season, he posted a slash line of .300/.382/.493 with 10 home runs and 27 stolen bases, and the organization raves about his defense in center field.

"I think they think I have something to offer," Robles said through an interpreter.

The Nationals outfield has been ravaged by injuries this season, with the timeline for Bryce Harper's return still uncertain, Jayson Werth out of the lineup Thursday and still nursing a sore shoulder from being hit by a pitch during his Minor League rehab assignment a few weeks ago and now Goodwin seeming unlikely to return. So, with the Nationals prepared to add Robles to the 40-man roster next season anyway, they decided to do it now.

The moment was still special for Robles, who immediately called his parents after receiving the news of his promotion. They were also at a loss for words and Robles said he could sense his father jumping in the air out of excitement.

"This is definitely what I work for," Robles said. "I definitely was surprised to get called up, so young at 20 years old, but I think I have the ability to help the team out. Hopefully, I help them out in any way with my ability."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals, Victor Robles

Madson surprising inclusion among callups

Nats activate righty; No. 3 prospect Fedde also rejoins club
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- The Nationals added five players to their roster Friday as Major League rosters expanded, with right-hander Ryan Madson activated from the disabled list as a surprising inclusion.

Madson arrived in Milwaukee just before 5 p.m. ET, rejoining the team for the first time since spending a few weeks in Arizona to see a hand specialist for a sprained right finger. Manager Dusty Baker had not met with Madson, so his status was unclear, however, Baker said Madson would likely need to throw at least a bullpen session and be checked on by team trainers before he would be used in a game.

Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- The Nationals added five players to their roster Friday as Major League rosters expanded, with right-hander Ryan Madson activated from the disabled list as a surprising inclusion.

Madson arrived in Milwaukee just before 5 p.m. ET, rejoining the team for the first time since spending a few weeks in Arizona to see a hand specialist for a sprained right finger. Manager Dusty Baker had not met with Madson, so his status was unclear, however, Baker said Madson would likely need to throw at least a bullpen session and be checked on by team trainers before he would be used in a game.

Full Game Coverage

"We sure miss him," Baker said. "Because we had a pretty good thing going [in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings]. We just hope that he's ready to come back soon."

The fact that Madson was activated would seem to indicate a positive sign about his status. Among Washington's callups, Madson joins left-hander Enny Romero, who was also activated from the DL, while right-handers Austin Adams and Erick Fedde, the Nats' No. 3 prospect as rated by MLBPipeline.com, were promoted from Triple-A Syracuse and catcher Raudy Read was promoted from Double-A Harrisburg.

Video: NYM@WSH: Fedde gets a strikeout to escape a jam

Washington is likely to recall a few more players once Syracuse's season ends, or when players who have recently been sent to the Minors -- including outfielders Andrew Stevenson, Rafael Bautista, right-handers A.J. Cole and catcher Pedro Severino -- are eligible to return.

Romero returns to the Nats after missing 27 games with a left forearm strain. He appeared in seven rehab games at Syracuse, giving up three runs in 6 1/3 innings, but said he utilized his time in the Minors to work on his secondary pitches to complement his electric fastball.

"That's the biggest thing," Romero said. "Getting comfortable throwing my offspeed in any count I want."

Read, the team's No. 14 prospect, joins the Nationals for the first Major League assignment after a season at Harrisburg in which he was Eastern League All-Star. He was not in the club's initial plans, but Washington called him up after catcher Matt Wieters took a foul ball off the knee Thursday night and did not start Friday's game against the Brewers. Baker did not sound too concerned about Wieters, but the team added Read just in case.

"As a little boy, growing up that's what you dream of getting to the big leagues," Read said through an interpreter. "When I received the phone call, I felt excited and emotional; I almost wanted to cry. Just nervous, all in one."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals, Ryan Madson

Touted Robles headlines Nats' AFL roster

No. 5 prospect in all of baseball 1 of 7 Nationals to play for Mesa Solar Sox
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfield phenom Victor Robles headlines the group of high-end talent headed to the Arizona Fall League this October. Robles, the fifth-ranked prospect in the Majors according to MLBPipeline.com, is the highest-rated player to appear on an AFL roster, which were revealed Tuesday.

Robles will be one of the seven Nationals to play for the Mesa Solar Sox during the six-week league. He'll be joined by right-handers Dakota Bacus, Jimmy Cordero, Kyle McGowin and Austen Williams, catcher Taylor Gushue and infielder Kelvin Gutierrez.

Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfield phenom Victor Robles headlines the group of high-end talent headed to the Arizona Fall League this October. Robles, the fifth-ranked prospect in the Majors according to MLBPipeline.com, is the highest-rated player to appear on an AFL roster, which were revealed Tuesday.

Robles will be one of the seven Nationals to play for the Mesa Solar Sox during the six-week league. He'll be joined by right-handers Dakota Bacus, Jimmy Cordero, Kyle McGowin and Austen Williams, catcher Taylor Gushue and infielder Kelvin Gutierrez.

Full Game Coverage

2017 Arizona Fall League rosters

Robles, 20, has continued to skyrocket up prospect rankings during the past year while impressing in the Minors. After beginning the season at Class A Potomac, Robles was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg and has continued to excel. In 32 games, he has batted .323/.396/.492 for a .888 OPS and eight stolen bases. He played in the 2017 SiriusXM Futures Game in July in Miami and drove in a run.

The AFL is usually seen as a final step for prospects who are near the Majors. Last season, the Nationals sent outfielder Andrew Stevenson -- currently their No. 7 prospect -- to play there, and he finished as the AFL's hits leader. He would go on to make his Major League debut this season.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

 

Washington Nationals