WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Victor Robles has done this before, putting up big numbers in spring training only to watch them come crashing down to earth once the season begins.
So nobody, not the Nationals and not the 25-year-old center fielder himself, is going to get too worked up about his performance over the last month.
“In terms of the results themselves and the numbers, I really don’t care much about that,” he said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “Maybe partly because I’m on the team. I think it’s just a matter of making sure I prepare myself right and take the right approach, and then get ready for the season.”
Still, it’s hard to ignore the numbers altogether. After another two-hit showing Thursday night, Robles is batting .342 (13-for-38) with four doubles, a triple and a homer, six RBIs and a .969 OPS in Grapefruit League play.
If he maintains these numbers, this will be the fourth time in five years Robles has finished spring training with an OPS over .900. Only once in the previous four regular seasons has he finished with OPS better than .608. So skepticism remains high.
Robles is doing something right at the plate this spring, though.
“We spread him out, got his hands a little freer,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And he’s just trying to hit the ball up the middle of the field. We want to keep things simple for him. Just move the baseball. Just put the ball in play. And he’s done a great job.”
Robles has indeed hit the ball with more authority this spring, a welcome change from the weak contact that became routine throughout a frustrating 2022 season. He doubled and homered during Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals. He’s even drawn three walks, leading to an impressive .390 on-base percentage.
“A little bit with my hands, just a little bit lower,” he said when asked if he’s made any mechanical changes. “And the focus, I think, I’ve taken with the two-strike approach has helped me quite a bit. I said it early on that my main purpose was to get on base any way I can to help the team out. I think that’s helping a lot.”
It’s now a matter of Robles maintaining this after the club heads north. History suggests it’s going to be a challenge. Robles’ career March/April slash line is .243/.313/.385. Last season, he entered May with a .626 OPS.
No matter what, he’s going to be the Nationals’ starting center fielder on Opening Day and most days that follow.
“He’s had a really good spring,” Martinez said. “He’s got a little bit of confidence, which is good. Hopefully he starts off quick and we keep him going.”
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