Martinez working Robles into Nats' lineup

Top prospect was slated for leadoff spot before Sunday's rainout

September 9th, 2018

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals promoted , their top prospect and MLB Pipeline's fifth-ranked prospect in baseball, to the Majors this month because they want to see him play. Finding him playing time in a crowded outfield, however, has proven difficult with on a hot streak and Juan Soto's steady excellence.

With a rain-soaked field this weekend at Nationals Park, manager Dave Martinez gave veteran outfielder Saturday's doubleheader off in part because he wanted to get Robles in the lineup. He planned to do the same in Sunday's series finale against the Cubs before it was postponed due to inclement weather: Robles was slated to bat leadoff and play center field.

Robles has appeared in all five games since being called up Tuesday, although his only starts of the year came in Saturday's doubleheader, going 1-for-10 with a walk and a caught-stealing. This has been Martinez's first look at Robles, and a chance to evaluate where he fits best in the batting order, and the plan for Sunday was to be the manager's first opportunity to see Robles hit leadoff.

"The sky's the limit with him," Martinez said. "He's got potentially five tools. We've seen everything he can do. We'll see where he ends up, but if he can get on base, it would be nice to have him up there."

Even though Sunday's game was washed away, Robles seems likely to receive another chance to bat atop the Nats' lineup before season's end.

Robles, 21, almost certainly would have been called up earlier this season had he not hyperextended his left elbow in April, which sidelined him for three months. He returned to form with a .740 OPS and 19 stolen bases in 52 games in the Minors, although his power numbers dipped -- he hit two homers in 192 at-bats compared with 10 in 430 at-bats in 2017.

Martinez believed the injury might have led to the dip in homers, but he did not seem concerned. He wants to see Robles hit the ball into the gap, and speculated he could one day see him leading the league in extra-base hits.

"It might take until this winter to get him really completely healed, but I think the power numbers will come," Martinez said. "I'm not too worried about it. For me, it's about hitting doubles, bunt when you think necessary, and play good defense. Run the bases the way you're capable of running, that's what I want to see from him."