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.
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.
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.