Inbox: Will Robles fit in Nats' playoff picture?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier fields questions from Nationals fans

September 18th, 2017

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals just got a look at the Dodgers during a three-game series this past weekend at Nationals Park, and although they dropped two of the three games, they can be inspired by their showing Sunday night. It was Washington's biggest matchup remaining on the regular-season calendar as the Nats continue gearing up for the postseason.

There are still a few unanswered questions remaining in this week's Nationals inbox, starting with the Nationals' top prospect -- who has looked impressive during his brief amount of playing time in Washington -- and if he fits in come playoff time.

Although he has only made two starts, it has not been hard to see how dynamic of a player , the club's top prospect and No. 2 overall in baseball as ranked by, can be. He is 3-for-9 with a triple, a double that would have been a triple had he not overslid the base and a pair of runs driven in and scored. Manager Dusty Baker has confirmed that he is certainly in the mix for the backup outfield spot on the Nationals' postseason roster.

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"If I didn't think so I wouldn't play him at all," Baker said. "You know what I'm saying? But I don't want to get carried away because I've seen September callups and then you can't find them come next April. So … you want to bring him on slowly, but at speed that you think he can handle emotionally and psychologically."

Robles is still just 20 years old, the youngest player in the Majors. His competition for a spot on the roster includes and , the club's No. 7- and No. 13-ranked prospect, and for the backup outfield spot left vacant because of 's groin injury.

So while he definitely has a chance, it's really tough to take too much away from 10 plate appearances for Robles. If he passes the other outfielders on the depth chart and keeps receiving more playing during the next few weeks, then his chances will seem more real. But for now, there is a long way to go.

Not really. I wouldn't take much stock on games in September after they have locked up the National League East. If there is one troubling trend, it would be the way the offense has dipped since landed on the disabled list, dropping from 5.5 runs per game to about 4.0 runs per game. It's understandable that losing your best hitter would lead to a drop-off, but it also underscores the importance of having Harper in the middle of the lineup, drawing walks, hitting homers and impacting the game in the variety of ways that he can.

The Nationals will give every chance to get his timing together at the plate during the next few weeks before the playoffs begin. After missing nearly three months with a broken foot, Werth returned to action and then missed another week with a sore shoulder. So now that he's back in the lineup, Werth will see how quickly he can get going.

Baker was asked last week whether Werth would be his everyday left fielder -- assuming Harper returns in time for the postseason -- or Kendrick?

"It's too early to tell," Baker said. "I'll figure it out. It depends on how Jayson's doing. It's a pretty nice bench. But Jayson has been our left fielder. Both of them have been through the wars so to speak. But to have Jayson and [Adam] Lind or to have Kendrick and Lind, that's a pretty good left-right combination.

As for , I think there certainly is a chance. Lobaton has had a difficult season, with a .500 OPS in 46 games, although the Nationals' pitching staff say they enjoying working with Lobaton. Severino has battled injuries and only had 23 plate appearances in the Majors, but when healthy provides more offense, runs well enough to serve as a pinch-runner and has always been thought of as a good defender.

Drew wants to play again in 2017 and has been working his way back vigorously lately, taking grounders at short, hitting batting practice and more. The earliest he can be activated from the disabled list is Sunday, with eight games remaining in the regular season. However, it's difficult to see where he fits in on the Nationals' playoff roster because of . Difo is younger, faster, plays more positions and has performed admirably in 112 games this season, with a .710 OPS in 112 games. Besides experience, there is not much Drew would give Washington that Difo would not.