Early bird Robles brings noise, energy to camp

Martinez mulling a move to the top of the order for young OF

February 15th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The double doors of the Nationals clubhouse swung open early Saturday morning and a burst of energy followed. had arrived.

The center fielder came to the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches ahead of Monday’s full squad report date. He brought with him his boisterous personality and warm greetings for his teammates and coaching staff.

“I was having a nice quiet morning -- coffee, reading a little bit,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He just came in really loud. I said, ‘What are you doing here? I’m not supposed to see you until Monday. Come back Monday.’ (laughs) But that’s who he is. He brings a lot of energy. I love him. He’s just that kind of kid. Actually, all kidding aside, I’m excited that he’s here, and I’m excited that he’s ready to go. He looks great. He’s excited to be here.”

Robles will be a player to watch during Spring Training. He could bat in a higher spot this season as the Nationals determine its order without Anthony Rendon, who hit third in 137 games. Last year, Robles took 112 at-bats second in the order, compared to a combined 398 at-bats between spots seven, eight and nine. He slashed .255/.326/.419 overall, and led the team with 28 stolen bases. Robles’ speed could play a factor in the batting order. Martinez will take a look at him in the leadoff spot, with second also being a possibility, in West Palm Beach.

“I’d like to see him move up, but we’ll see how it plays out,” Martinez said. “Right now, you’ve still got , you’ve still got . Those two guys, for me, they get things going, one-two. Obviously we’re in search for a third hitter, but we’ve got options. We could mess around with that a little bit, so we’ll see what happens.”

The Nationals would like for Robles to continue to grow his discipline at the plate. He drew 35 walks and struck out a team-high 140 times in 2019.

“We want him to be aggressive, but we want him to be aggressive in the strike zone and kind of stay within himself,” Martinez said. “That’s something we talked to him [about] last year when he left, and I know that K-Long’s [hitting coach Kevin Long] is going to harp on it this year. Be aggressive in the strike zone, take your walks, because for me, when he walks, it’s a double, it’s a triple. And when he gets on base, good things happen.”

The 22-year-old is coming off a World Series run he did not commit a defensive error. He won’t turn 23 until May 19, making him part of the Nationals’ young group of talent along with and .

“[I hope to see] that he just keeps growing, keeps maturing,” Martinez said. “The sky’s the limit. He has so much potential, so many tools. Last year, I thought he did great. He should have won a Gold Glove, in my opinion. He did all the things we needed him to do. I think he gets overshadowed because of Juan Soto being so young and doing what he did. He did phenomenal.

“He made some unbelievable strides, and we hope that he continues to make those strides here soon in the near future.”