The Nationals have optioned Victor Robles to Triple-A Rochester, the team announced Tuesday. A former top prospect, the 24-year-old has a .203 batting average with two home runs and eight stolen bases over 107 games this season as Washington’s primary center fielder.
It was a surprising move by the Nationals, who have entered each of the last three seasons expecting Robles to develop into the star he projected to be while in the minors. However, his struggles at the plate (.605 OPS) and on the basepaths (57% stolen base percentage) prompted manager Davey Martinez to cut into his playing time despite his strong defense in center.
“I want him to continue to progress and consistently hit the ball hard, working good at-bats, taking his walks, doing the little things, bunting when he has to bunt, that’s all part of the process for him,” Martinez said Tuesday. “We need him to get on base. We need him to drive in balls. We’re not asking him to hit .300 because the way he plays defense.
“We’re just asking him to put the ball in play, hit the ball hard consistently, be a good baserunner every day, every time he’s out there, be aggressive but be a good baserunner, and just play the game, do the little things right.”
Though outfielder Andrew Stevenson was recalled from Triple-A in a corresponding move, optioning Robles gives the Nationals a chance to get an extended look at trade deadline acquisition Lane Thomas.
Since the Nationals traded Jon Lester for him in a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, Thomas has hit .310 with seven walks in 13 games while making several highlight-reel plays in center field. The 26-year-old was a .172 career hitter in limited chances with the Cardinals, so Washington will now get to see whether Thomas’s success can be sustained over a larger sample.
“Since Lane’s been here, he’s done well,” Martinez said. “He’s really worked good at-bats, he’s hit, he’s taken some good walks so right now he’s earned the right to be out there and play. He’s done well, he’s played real good center field. I want to continue to give him the opportunity.
“I heard a lot about Lane from some St. Louis guys and I’m starting to realize that he’s potentially a really, really good baseball player. He understands the game well so he’s just getting an opportunity right now to play.”