Nationals manager Davey Martinez has remarked on several occasions how center fielder Victor Robles has Gold Glove awards in his future, that he could be one of the very best defensive players in baseball. Ten years ago, that would resonate as much more of a subjective opinion than it does now because with the numbers provided by Statcast, we have more clarity than ever on what separates the best players from the average ones in the field.
Statcast, in fact, loves Robles. His biggest fans at Nationals Park are the player tracking cameras situated around the stadium. According to the data provided by MLB.com, he is by several measures one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.
Based on their outs above average (OAA) metric, Robles is No. 1 among all outfielders. OAA accounts for catch probability and volume.
Robles is tied for second in actual catch percentage (93%) and is seventh in catch percentage added (5%). That basically means he takes care of the easy ones and makes plays that average players don't.
According to the OAA metric, Robles is the most reliable outfilder in baseball on plays where he moves in towards the infield. He ranks third in plays going back towards the wall.
What stands out most about Robles in Statcast is that he is more so solid than spectacular. He doesn't rank highly in their five-star catch category, defined as plays with an expected catch percentage of 25 percent or less. But he is near the top of the majors in four-, three- and two-star plays.
Robles, though, still manages to sprinkle in some web gems:
Perhaps the best part of analyzing Robles in Statcast is knowing that there is likely much more to it than meets the eye. Not all of the data is made public, including when it comes to arm strength for non-catchers.
From the few numbers that have been released, Robles fares really well in those, too. This season he has made several throws that neared triple-digits on the radar gun.
He threw a ball home at 99.5 miles per hour in August against the Reds:
And the very next day, also against the Reds, he reached 97.3 miles per hour throwing to third:
Clearly, no matter if you are throwing off a mound or from the outfield grass, reaching 97-plus on a throw is impressive. Again, there are no public leaderboards to cross-examine, but an analysis piece by MLB.com back in 2016 sheds light on where Robles' arm might rank.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com gave a top-five for average speed on what he defined as competitive throws, which exclude soft tosses to the cutoff man. Back then, Jake Marisnick led the majors with an average speed of 98.6 miles per hour on his outfield throws. Petriello wrote how the Astros led the majors with an average of 94.6 miles per hour on throws made by their outfielders.
Robles, evidently, at the very least has the ability to unleash throws that are considerably faster than the top averages in baseball.
Robles also stacks up well in the defensive stats separate from Statcast, ones that have been around longer. He is tied for third in outfield assists, fourth in range factor and fourth in ultimate zone rating (UZR).
Based on the numbers, Robles should probably win the Gold Glove for NL center fielders. Working in his favor is that there is no perennial mainstay at the position, unlike Nolan Arenado at third base who has won the award six straight years while boxing out great fielders like Anthony Rendon.
Martinez' prediction seems like a safe one. It could come true this fall.
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