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Nats send top prospect Robles to Minors

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Even as Victor Robles continued to impress during his first Major League camp, there was always the issue of whether there was any room in the Nationals' crowded outfield for him to start the season in the Majors.

Washington has insisted that Robles -- the Nationals' top prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 6 overall prospect -- will play every day to start the season. Once left fielder Adam Eaton and center fielder Michael A. Taylor returned to Grapefruit League action this past weekend and proved they were healthy, there was no room in D.C. for Robles to do so. That made the Nationals' decision Tuesday afternoon always seem inevitable. Robles was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse before the team's 8-3 win over the Marlins.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Even as Victor Robles continued to impress during his first Major League camp, there was always the issue of whether there was any room in the Nationals' crowded outfield for him to start the season in the Majors.

Washington has insisted that Robles -- the Nationals' top prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 6 overall prospect -- will play every day to start the season. Once left fielder Adam Eaton and center fielder Michael A. Taylor returned to Grapefruit League action this past weekend and proved they were healthy, there was no room in D.C. for Robles to do so. That made the Nationals' decision Tuesday afternoon always seem inevitable. Robles was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse before the team's 8-3 win over the Marlins.

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Robles started off on an impressive roll at the plate and in the field during his first Major League Spring Training. It was as if he made a diving play every other day. He flashed all of his five tools routinely and was batting .353 on March 2. It was thought that perhaps, after cracking the Majors last September and forcing his way onto the postseason roster with his performance, that Robles could once again make a push to change the Nationals' plans to start him in the Minors.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

But Robles had cooled off recently, especially at the dish. Opposing pitchers had started targeting him with breaking balls off the plate and he struggled to adjust. In 48 Grapefruit League at-bats, he compiled a slash line of .188/.216/.313 with a home run, six RBIs and two stolen bases.

"I think the only difference I see in his game right now is he's got a real sense of calmness here in camp," general manager Mike Rizzo said last week. "When he came up last year, obviously a 19-year-old in the big leagues for the first time, playoff roster, his energy level was abounding. This year it's more like a sense of calmness, like he really belongs here."

Video: WSH@HOU: Robles lays out to make a tremendous grab

Considering the Nationals have such high expectations for Robles' future, and how loudly he continues to knock on the door to the Majors, it is easy to forget that Robles is just 20 years old and has never played a game at Triple-A. It remains to be seen how quickly he will arrive in Washington, but once he does, the Nationals would like him to be ready to remain there for good.

"He needs to play every day," manager Dave Martinez said. "And continue to develop. That's the big key for him. He's going to help us win many games, not only this year but for many many years, so we want him to keep developing."

And this spring has seemingly only reiterated the fact that Robles' day as a starting outfielder in D.C. is coming sooner rather than later.

Worth noting
Stephen Strasburg was a bit shaky in his latest spring outing on Tuesday. Strasburg gave up three runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings on a humid afternoon in the Nationals' win over the Marlins.

Bryce Harper launched a solo home run to straightaway center field in the sixth inning on Tuesday. He is now batting .371 this spring with a 1.079 OPS.

Video: MIA@WSH: Harper belts a two-run homer to center field

• In addition to Robles, the Nationals also re-assigned right-hander Ismael Guillon to Minor League camp.

Up next
The Nationals will host the Astros on Thursday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, live on MLB.TV. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will take the mound for his fourth Grapefruit League start.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Victor Robles