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
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.
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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."
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.