NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - Nationals minor league center fielder Victor Robles has been climbing up the prospect charts after an outstanding 2016 season. Robles hit .280 with 118 hits, 37 stolen bases and 75 runs for three teams, fortifying national attention to his elite skill set.
Last season, Robles was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in Baseball America’s Nationals top 10.
Robles’ name has come up a few times in the past week in trade rumors involving players like Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen. His speed is a big deal, but MLBpipeline.com senior writer Jim Callis said that is far from being the only reason baseball general managers appreciate the 19-year-old’s abilities on the diamond.
“It’s more than just speed,” Callis said. “He might have as good all-around tools as anybody in the minor leagues. I have written, I have said, by the end of next year when we have the guys from the top of the prospect list now graduate to the big leagues, Victor Robles might be in the conversation for best prospect in baseball a year from now.”
It has been assumed that center fielder/shortstop Trea Turner, last year’s top Nationals offensive prospect was not available as trade bait. So Callis said he expected other teams to then inquire about Robles.
“If I’m talking trade with the Nationals - not that Mike Rizzo doesn’t know what he’s doing, because he does - (I say,) ‘OK, you don’t want to give me Trea Turner? Well give me Victor Robles then,’ ” Callis said. “It will be interesting. If they are willing to trade guys like (Lucas) Giolito or a Robles, I would think that would be too much for a guy like Andrew McCutchen. But I would think that anybody who’s on the market would be in play for the Nationals if they’re willing to trade guys like that.”
Also advancing his profile was center fielder Andrew Stevenson, who shined this offseason in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .353 in 21 games. Callis said Stevenson’s defense jumps out at you, but watching him hit so well for Glendale last month really got his attention.
“Stevenson’s interesting because Stevenson, when they got him out of the draft, had a reputation as maybe being the best defensive center fielder in that draft, at least on the college side for sure,” Callis said. “I saw him in the fall league, and I know not to read too much into the fall league, but he looked better offensively than I remembered.”
Stevenson has been so good that Callis gave him a favorable comparison to current Red Sox star Jackie Bradley Jr.
“If he can hit for a solid average, (Stevenson is) a big league player,” Callis said. “He kind of reminds me a little bit - they’re different but similar - (of) SEC centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. With Bradley, the defense jumped out. Jackie had a higher offensive ceiling because he can drive the ball more that Stevenson, although Stevenson is a faster runner. But Bradley was a guy who had trouble getting established in Boston and it was kind of like, ‘What are they going to do with this guy?’ And then, when the bat came all of a sudden, it was like, ‘Wow! This guy is really good.’
“I’m not saying he’s going to hit as much as Jackie Bradley did this year, but Andrew Stevenson’s defense is so good, it’s the same type of player. If he just gives you a little bit of batting average, then he’s a good big league player.”