Victor Robles Gets the Call

No, I Said The White PhoneIn a move that surprised just about everyone except the talk-radio philistines, the Washington Nationals called up their #1 position prospect, Victor Robles.

On the other hand, the corresponding news that Brian Goodwin, the erstwhile 1st Rd. (supplemental) pick from 2011 who finally realized his potential this season, was likely done for the year should also come as no surprise in a season where everyone has gotten hurt for the big club.

I had concluded my penultimate MASN column with a elbow-to-the-ribs line about Robles. So when I saw Jeff Passan’s tweet around 3 o’clock this afternoon, I felt like Harris Telemacher in “L.A. Story,” joking about his wife cheating on him… only to find it out it was actually true.

Still, the Nationals also called up Andrew Stevenson and Rafael Bautista: two outfielders with both MLB and AAA experience, of which Robles has neither (but in fairness, he has more talent than the two multiplied). This is key because some folks immediately and mistakenly made the comparison to Trea Turner and Michael Taylor as late-season callups in the heat of a playoff race (more in a bit), which ignores how much more time they spent at AA (68G, 98G respectively vs. 35G) and AAA (48G, 12G, 0G). More astute folks reference Ryan Zimmerman, who also spent 0 games at AAA, or Anthony Rendon, though he was called up in the spring and was older than all but Taylor.

And let’s be honest: with a magic number that can be counted on two hands—one if you’re Antonio Alfonseca—there’s almost no pressure on the Nats right now. Perhaps that’s why the Nats are willing to start the arbitration clock early, although it’s very hard not to be cynical and wonder if he’s being showcased for another offseason trade (is there anyone left on the A’s we want?). I hope not; I’d much rather think this is a preview of things to come.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

10 thoughts on “Victor Robles Gets the Call”

  1. Remember two years ago when the Nats called up Trea Turner then refused to actually play him? Leaving him on the big league roster for 41 games while giving him only 8 starts?

    Then remember the following season, when the Nats had to leave him in the minors until mid July despite batting .302/.370/.471, while his big league replacement batted .217/.260/.300 because they needlessly prematurely started his arb-eligibility clock ticking?

    This all feels rather familiar.

  2. Victor, over?

    Over, roger.

    Will, I had a similar thought on a head-scratching burning of service time. At least when they brought Trea up, it was sort of a desperation move by a sinking team, compounded by a lame-duck manager who wouldn’t play him. Here, they’ve called up Robles at the same time they brought up Bautista and Stevenson. It’s not like they lack for OF bodies to maintain their 19-game lead with 22 to play.

    My only thought is that they want to find out how close Robles is to MLB-ready to give them a better idea whether they could trade Taylor or Goodwin during the offseason. They’ve already found out that Stevenson needs more seasoning.

    On a related note, too bad for Goodwin, who looked like he had finally proven himself to the point that he would have been on the playoff roster after a long slog through the minors.

    1. The Nats are going for it this season. The Nats made this move because Brian Goodwin may not be available in October (Bryce Harper may not be available either and Werth is still not 1005), and Robles at 20 is a significantly better player than either Andrew Stevenson at 23 or Rafael Bautista at 24 or Alejandro De Aza at 33. So, depending on how Robles plays over the last 3 weeks, he has a chance to play this post-season for the Nats.

      There is no other possible reason for this move as the Nats did not need to and would not have put Robles on the 40 man roster this off-season. If Goodwin and Harper were 100%, there is no chance that the Nats would’ve made this move.

      1. I’m not sure that Robles is eligible for the postseason roster since he wasn’t on the 40-man by Sept. 1. But I’ll be the first to admit that my understanding of such minutiae is hazy.

        If the last postseason bench spot comes down to De Aza (who can’t play CF), Stevenson, or Bautista, those aren’t great choices. Dusty declared yesterday that he doesn’t want to risk Difo in the OF in the playoffs. Trea or Bryce could play CF, but both would be rusty on their reads, and Bryce’s speed and mobility likely won’t be 100%.

        1. Even though Robles wasn’t on the 40 man roster at 11:59 on August 31, he can be added to the post-season roster if the player (Robles) the Nats want to add was in the organization on August 31 (Robles was), and the Nats have a player on the 60 day DL and who has been on the 60 days at the end of the season (they do). They have to petition MLB to get Robles on the roster, but it is routinely granted as the Royals used this procedure to get Brandon Finnegan on their post-season roster in 2014.

          The Nats didn’t add Robles to the 40 man roster to get a few random meaningless MLB at-bats in September; they added him to explore the possibility to put him on the post-season roster.

          1. Good explanation on whether Robles could be on the postseason roster.

            The question then becomes: should he be? I’d be very interested in Luke’s thoughts on Robles’s defense compared to Stevenson and Bautista. Stevenson has been said since he was drafted to be plus-plus defensively (albeit with a weak arm). And while I know it’s a very different level, he has good bit of experience with postseason pressure from LSU’s College World Series appearances. Stevenson sure hasn’t looked comfortable at the plate yet at the MLB level, though. I imagine that Robles will.

          2. All three are viable options with Robles having the strongest arm, Stevenson taking the best routes, and Bautista splitting the differences. TBH, I think offense is going to be the separator and we simply don’t know yet if Robles right now is the best choice. If you only want defense and pinch-running, gun to head: Bautista. Robles’s speed is negated by his CS/PO tendencies, which major-League catchers and pitchers could exploit.

          3. Thanks Luke. Very good scoop.

            If memory serves, in the spring when Robles got called to the big-league camp for an intra-squad game, he doubled off Roark, but then Roark picked him off second.

          4. Seems like Stevenson is the safest choice. You know what your getting. He can rundown fly balls, and the least likely to make a mistake on the basis, but he has no bat at the MLB level.

            Robles is the most high risk. Ridiculous set of tools, but as the youngest and rawest of the group, the most likely to do something spectacularly great or awful.

            Bautista seems like the middle ground between Stevenson and Robles (btw, realize it was a small sample, but last night, Bautista looked like he had never run the bases in his life; multiple mistakes on one eventful stay on the basis after a single; Trea Turner had to tell him to stay on 2nd base as he wandered toward the Nats dugout).

  3. Also of note in all of this, Robles would not have been Rule 5-eligible this offseason, so the Nats could have delayed adding him to the 40-man until whenever they wanted to bring him up in 2018.

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