September call-ups can give baseball fans a glimpse into the future of their club, teasing them for what might be in the next season - or for years to come.
But when your top prospect comes up and is only 20, it might be too much pressure to put on his shoulders to deliver in his first few games at the sport’s top level.
That is certainly not the case for Victor Robles.
On Thursday, Robles went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and an electrifying triple that had Nats Park in a frenzy as the Nationals dropped the Braves 5-2.
The Dominican outfielder showed off his speed as he raced from home plate to third base in the fastest time ever recorded by a Nationals player, according to Statcast, .02 seconds faster than Trea Turner. Statcast was established in 2015.
Manager Dusty Baker appreciates what Robles can bring to the table.
“You got to like what you see,” Baker said. “You see why everybody wanted to trade for him and see why we didn’t give him up and include him in any of those trades. He can be an impact player.
“Handful of at-bats, but that’s quite a few of at-bats considering September call-ups in a race. They usually don’t get any at-bats unless it’s to pinch-hit. So he’s had two starts and all our young guys have had starts since they came up.”
Robles was still playing high Single-A with Potomac on July 22. So far with the Nationals, he’s hit .333 (3-for-9) with a double, a triple, two runs and two RBIs in five games.
Left fielder Jayson Werth spoke about the steps Robles has made even since his last game.
“Yeah, when he hit that ball off the wall the other day, he slipped past third but that was pretty telling for me,” Werth said. “Because you don’t know what you’re getting with these kids when they come up here. You’ve never seen them play. You see them in spring training, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got a lot of talent coming up. This organization is really deep. As a Nats fan going forward, that’s pretty good. This team should be very good for years to come.”
Robles admitted the first at-bat of his big league career Sept. 7 against the Phillies was a bit nerve-racking. He flew out to right field as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
“My first at-bat in the big leagues, I was definitely nervous,” Robles said via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I’ve had that tendency at every level I’ve gone to. The first at-bat at the next level, I get a little nervous. But after that, I’ve had that sense of myself that I calm down and it’s just like playing any other game.”
Robles’ extra-base hit put the Nats up 2-0 Thursday night. His acceleration from first to third to turn the hit into a triple was what made a big impression on those watching. His double last week could have been a triple if he didn’t slide past the bag. Was he thinking triple this time around?
“I’m always thinking third base unless the coach stops me,” Robles said.
Social media was abuzz with the statistic that Roble’s triple speed was the fastest in three seasons by a Nats player. The speed Robles showed on the triple wasn’t lost when he got back into the dugout and was greeted his teammates.
“We never really did talk about that but I did overhear (Bryce) Harper kind of giving (Trea) a hard time over it, and he just kind of told him, ‘Ah don’t worry about it, you’re still the fastest guy here,’ ” Robles said. “I think he just saw what happened and in the moment said it. I’m not sure about him knowing the times.”
As Werth said, having a player like Robles available to pair with the speed the Nats already enjoy from guys like Turner and Michael A. Taylor, adds a major weapon to both offense and defense. But as Turner said Wednesday, you can’t employ that speed if you don’t get on base. Robles has demonstrated he can get on base. In nine at-bats, he has yet to strike out.
“It’s good. He doesn’t strike out a lot,” said winning pitcher Tanner Roark, who improved to 13-9. “He puts the bat on the ball. He puts pressure on the defense whenever he hits a ground ball because he’s fast. He’s lightning fast. He’s just like Trea. He’s been big for us so far. He’s really taken advantage of the opportunity whenever he’s get the chance and go out there and show his stuff.”