Yesterday, the Nationals interrupted a road trip to play contest at Nationals Park against the Cubs rescheduled due to rain. At this point in the season, neither team likely wanted to make the trip, but it was one of the most entertaining and well-played games of the season. Unfortunately the Nationals were unable to come away with the victory, but a silver lining in this difficult loss was the play of rookie Victor Robles.
Robles served as Washington's leadoff hitter and starting center fielder yesterday, going 1-3 with a walk, a run scored, a run-scoring sacrifice fly and a stolen base. In addition, Robles made two Web Gem-worthy defensive plays in the outfield. This game should serve as a reminder of the type of dynamic player Robles is and the role he could play for the Nats in 2019.
The 2018 campaign has essentially been a lost season for Robles, who dislocated his elbow in gruesome fashion in a game during the first week of the year. This injury caused him to play in only 52 minor league games this season, batting .270/.371/.370 with two home runs and 19 stolen bases. However, if you can recall back to March when the cherry blossoms were blooming and the Capitals were limping into the playoffs, Robles was Washington's top prospect, ahead of teenage wunderkind Juan Soto.
Offensively as a leadoff hitter, Robles has the unique ability to hit for a high batting average by making consistent hard contact, while also providing a legitimate home run threat. Furthermore, Robles has a patient approach at the plate and a keen batting eye, which helps him draw his share of walks. He also has a knack for getting hit by pitches, as he has been hit 97 times in his 397 minor league games. He understands that his role as a leadoff hitter is to get on-base, and once he does, Robles creates havoc on the base paths.
Yesterday during the seventh inning with the Nationals down 3-2, Robles flashed his baseball smarts by cleverly taking advantage of a defensive shift by the Cubs to pull off a delayed steal second base. Robles wisely understood the situation and made an incredibly savvy play to get in scoring position. The next batter, Trea Turner, drove him home with a double to tie the game.
Defensively, Robles also made an impact Thursday, notching an outfield assist in the first inning by throwing out Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo at second base with an absolute laser throw. Later, in the fifth inning, Robles again robbed Rizzo, swiping an easy hit from him with a diving effort into the right-center gap. Robles is blessed with outstanding speed and a strong throwing arm, making him the prototypical center fielder and a player who also impacts the game defensively.
September baseball can be difficult to watch when your team is not chasing a playoff berth. Not to mention Mother Nature has done her best in recent weeks to stifle Nationals baseball. Nonetheless, standout performances from young players like Robles, who are building blocks to the organization, keep me watching each night and incredibly optimistic about the future of the Nationals.
Ryan Sullivan blogs about the Nationals at The Nats GM and runs The Nats GM Show podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TheNatsGM. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.