Nationals Baseball: Who is Victor Robles?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Who is Victor Robles?

Many fans have responded to the news that the Nats are being asked for Victor Robles in exchange for Andrew McCutchen with knee-jerk predictability. "HE'S ONE OF OUR TOP PROSPECTS!!! UNTOUCHABLE!!!!" It's not just a Nats fans thing.  That is pretty much guaranteed to be said about any team's Top 1-3 guys in the system when brought up in trade talks. We overvalue our own and assume that because they are the top guys in our system that they are future major leaguers just waiting for their big break. It's usually not true.

But that doesn't mean it's always not true! Someone has to be the major leaguers of tomorrow. The question is - is Robles that? And if so, what kind of major leaguer is he likely to be?

Much like when we looked at Giolito about a year ago, I like to look at why exactly we are excited by Robles and how other players who hit same points turned out. So why are we excited by Robles? Sure he's got the tools, etc. but "tools, etc." doesn't get you talked about like you could be a Top 10 prospect. You need production to go along with it. We are excited because as a 19 year old Robles put up a .305 / .405 / .459 line in class A ball. That is a young age for class A, so being that good is basically a flashing sign saying "this kid might be special".  But how special? Well let's look at all the guys at age 19* who put up a .850 or higher OPS in the Sally** league and what happened to them

KJ Woods - terrible in A+ in 2016, but didn't hit before 2015 so not really comparable to Robles or almost everyone on this list
Austin Meadows - would hit immediately in A+ ball in 2015, then hit in AA at the end of same year. Hit in AA to start 2016. Not great in AAA but injured. Expected to be a major leaguer in 2017
Ryan McMahon - hit in A+ ball in 2015. Did not hit in AA in 2016.
Chance Sisco - 2015 hit a little worse in A+ ball, a little worse that that in AA ball. 2016 Hit well in AA. Catcher who should help part of 2017
Joey Gallo - What did happen to Joey Gallo? He CRUSHED in A ball at 19. 38 homers! 2014 - CRUSHED A+ ball. Powered through AA. 2015 CRUSHED AA, struggled mightily in AAA. Got ML time, didn't hit. 2016 Good in AAA. An unimpressive cup of coffee in Texas. Will probably get a big chuck of time in majors in 2017 to see where he's at. Fun prospect with ELITE power. 
Nick Williams - 2014 hit well enough in A+ ball to get a AA trial. Failed. 2015 AA went much better. 2016 did just ok in AAA. Not quite a KJ Woods type, but not with other real prospects here, either
Alen Hanson - KJ Woods type. Been moved up to do it but never really hit all that great. Looks like a AAA guy.
Trevor Story - Stepped back in 2013 but then got it in 2014... then struggled in AA. But then adapted in 2015 and was a good starter for Colorado in 2016.
Gary Sanchez - didn't hit like that again until 2015 but hit well enough to get moved along, given he's a catcher. Hit well in AAA in 2016. Performance upon call-up to majors shockingly good. Will see a lot of playing time in 2017 to see how fluky that was.
Johnathan Schoop - moved up and basically made an Oriole in 2014 just because, not because he earned it. Struggled terribly in 2014. A fair major leaguer in 2015/6.
Christian Yelich - never stopped hitting. Also reached majors in 2013 but deserved to. Hit fairly well in majors before breaking out in 2016.
Nolan Arenando - hit in 2011 but not in AA in 2012, but after an impressive Fall League got a AAA shot in 2013 was killing it so got a major league shot hasn't looked back. Not as good offensively as you might think (Coors you know) but a very good major leaguer

One thing should be flat out obvious. Victor Robles is not helping the 2017 Nats. Victor Robles is very very likely not helping the 2018 Nats either. That's the case across the board here. If he were an 18 year old maybe you look for immediate fast impact - the names there are Bryce, Stanton, Freeman, Machado, Heyward. But he's not so you don't. So we're looking at the 2019 Nats for the likely earliest time Robles will be up and helping the Nats offensively. And that's an optimistic projection. More likely is that it'll be 2020 or so before he really develops.

The second thing is that a lot of these guys are big power big K guys. Robles is an average and patience guy.  On one hand that's great. The strikeout issue is the sticking point for many a great minor leaguer who can't hack it in the majors. That shouldn't be an issue for Robles. On the other hand, that's not great. The power is what makes players special. If Robles can't develop it then his impact on the future Nats is limited.

Since we hit a lot of decent players right at the end there I went back and looked at a few more years and they were more like 2012 on than 2010/2011. A mixed bag at best. That's not to say Robles can't develop, just that a very good 19 year A-ball season doesn't mean all that much when it comes to major league success. I think what will be telling for Victor is what we see in 2017. The true flame-outs seemed to all quickly drop back into not hitting. If Victor does that - well then he might be a flameout. (might) If he keeps hitting then I'd seriously doubt that a flameout is in his future.

But still we're talking flameouts here. Guys that never make the majors or barely play. A guy good enough to just make the majors on the bench or to be a blah starter for a couple years shouldn't be enough to hold up a trade. Is that what Robles is likely to be? My guess, and I stress guess, is no. I think he's better than that. But I see him as a .280 slap hitter with patience in 2020. If he's got great speed and defense still at that point, then there's a lot of value there. A leadoff hitter, CF for cheap for 6 years. If he doesn't then he's just a line-up piece. A 3rd/4th OF who you play because he saves the ton of money you need to get much better at his position. Where you fall here matters, but also consider the time frame. Where will the Nats be in 2020? Do you think Max and Stras will still be dealing? That Rendon and Roark will still be here and good?

Keeping Robles is betting on 2020 being a time where Robles being a very good leadoff type matters.  I don't see myself making that bet. I'm sorry. Not because I think the Nats will be bad then, but because I understand I have no idea how the Nats will be by then and keeping a Robles type for the giant question mark fog of four years down the road seems silly to me. If you don't like Cutch fine. Don't trade for him. But don't let it be Robles that holds you up.

*Remember age is super impt here so 18 year olds and 20 year olds need not apply.

**Remember league is super impt here too. Some leagues are super hitter friendly. The Sally isn't one of those though.


Zimmerman11 said...

Rumors now that Rizzo thinks that he has the pieces to get Sale AND Cutch??? This makes me believe that we'll get neither. But Maybe Melancon will pick our very reasonable offer with half the money deferred :(

mike k said...

Washington Post says Rizzo disagrees with you, Harper. At least in terms of getting McCutchen. It implied he'd trade Robles for Sale, though it did not outright state it.

As I wrote in the previous thread (RIGHT before you put up the new post), I'm now putting the chances the Nats get McCutchen at 40%. There's a psychology to not getting the player you want from a team...I think the Pirates look elsewhere. I hope I'm wrong. Lopez for McCutchen!

Zimmerman11 said...

Nationals Attempting To Acquire Both Chris Sale, Andrew McCutchen
By Mark Polishuk | December 5, 2016 at 7:22am CDT

7:22am: The Nationals regard Robles as an integral long-term piece and are unwilling to trade him for McCutchen, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. A deal could still happen in spite of that, Janes notes. Further, contrary to an earlier report, the Nats never planned to non-tender Espinosa.

Makes more sense they were just using the non-tender deadline as a reason to push the Pirates into making the move sooner. Seems more likely they were thinking about keeping Revere, but there are several options in CF so they were OK letting him go w/o completing the deal.

KO said...

Harper, based on this do you think we would need packages for Sale or Cutch or would Robles be enough for one of them? Cutch before Sale obviously.

PotomacFan said...

My view (but I'm not Harper) is that Sale would require Robles + top pitching prospect (Giolito or Lopez) and maybe more. Cutch would also require at least two prospects, including one top pitching prospect, a next level pitching prospect, and maybe a throw in like MAT to play CF (unless the Pirates have someone else within their organization lined up for CF). In all events, I don't think we'll ever know because I don't see Rizzo giving up all his top prospects to get both Sale and Cutch -- and I'm not even sure the Nats have enough prospects to get both. Remember: other teams would love to get these guys, too, especially Sale.

SM said...

You noted the Sallyann--old school for "Sally"--league isn't a hitter friendly league. Shouldn't that consideration be taken into account as a player moves up the ladder?

Be clear, I'm not comparing Robles to either of these two, but Gallo, for example, moved up to the AA Texas League and AAA Pacific Coast League where even you could drill a couple of tape-measure foul balls. They're hitters' leagues.

Sanchez worked his way up through the AA Eastern League and AAA International League, hardly hitters' Edens. (What he did in the majors was indeed shockingly good.)

The question, then, is, How accurately can minor league stats predict major league performance?

I know Bill James toyed around with this for a while, and thought he'd nailed it. But even he admitted the variables were too scattered and unpredictable to achieve certainty.

NotBobby said...

Harper - only speaking for myself, but I am not banking on Robles being a superstar. I just believe in the get-in-as-often-as-possible mantra and think that Rizzo needs to keep a certain amount of high floor, good prospects to keep the pipeline flowing.

Robles has a good shot of being in the lineup in 2019/2020. That is far in the future and i do not mind giving him up, but whoever he nabs has to help the team now and down the road. McCutcheon and Sale will help now but not down the road. If they could ensure a FLAG then i am down, but i do not believe in pushing all of one's chips in to the middle of the table.

Josh Higham said...

Olney reports that Melancon has agreed with the Giants, pending a physical. I don't believe the Nats will try hard to get Jansen or Chapman because of the price tags. Harper, do you think Melancon leaving means Blake Treinen is the Nats closer in 2017?

Josh Higham said...

I forgot for a moment there that Shawn Kelley didn't actually suffer a career ending injury in G5 (silly me). So new question becomes, do the Nats stand pat by slotting in Kelley at closer with Treinen as the likely successor if the old guy with two TJs gets hurt?

Zimmerman11 said...

We're gonna be "Treinen" a buncha guys in the late innings to see where we're at...Blake might get a shot, sure :)

Interesting, sounds like Miami is going hard after Chapman.

Fries said...

I'm fine not getting a closer so long as we get Sale and/or Cutch. Relievers come and go all the time, but the lineup needs some help and I'd love to add a lefty (or swap out Gio for said lefty) to the rotation

Harper said...

Z11 - I'm going to guess they get one - they'll part with Lopez plus enough to get a match. Also I'm not surprised by Miami, they thought they'd be ready to compete and the Fernandez loss knocks plans around. Have to focus on something else

mike k - Rizzo says a lot. I don't trust any statement in the press from him. And that's not an insult. He should play that game.

KO - Potomax has it pretty much right IMO

I think the Pirates would do Cutch for Robles+Voth+?
I think Sale would be more. Two of Ross, Robles, Lopez, Lito

at least that's my numbers. So you could do both but it would gut the system.

SM - the closer you get to the majors the better they are at predicting performance but your right. Hell I'm pretty sure ML performance is only like 65% predictable from year to year or something like that.

NotBobby - now I can get this, if you are going to give up a likable prospect you need YEARS in return as much as talent. what about straight up for Adam Eaton? Basically you'd be tradings Robles later for Robles now - 5 years. I think though Sale (3 years) is long enough down the road to do it. After 3 years all contracts are fuzzy.

Highman - Yes I think that's exactly it. With eyes on Glover or perhaps Lopez in 2019+

Zimmerman11 said...

I think Sale would be more. Two of Ross, Robles, Lopez, Lito at least that's my numbers. So you could do both but it would gut the system.

Sale's deal is good for THREE years... go for it... play out these 2-3 seasons and then commit to a rebuild, selling off whatever of value and restocking the system.

Let's DO IT.

JE34 said...

Ugh. The Nats "pursuit" of Melancon was wishful thinking... and I will be shocked if they get a real closer. But having that guy anchoring the back of the pen did wonders for my digestion. Given the current strength of the starting rotation, I don't see getting another starter as more important than having a real closer. It's all the more important with Werth and Zimm in offensive decline.

Are there legit closers in their final contract years that will be available in July for half-year rental?

DezoPenguin said...

As one of the people saying "Don't trade Robles for Cutch!" in the previous thread, I figure I ought to speak up. My mouth is large and can fit many shoes.

It's not that I don't recognize that prospects are a crapshoot. Sometimes they turn out great. Sometimes they don't. Top-level prospects are more likely to be great than bad ones, but they still regularly flame out. (The Nats actually got pretty lucky that both Strasburg and Harper have been, for the most part, really really really good at baseball.)

My problem is that Andrew McCutchen is, to my mind, just as much of a crapshoot. We'd be trading one question mark that is very cheap and under control for a large number of years for another question mark that is very expensive and under control for only two years. I don't know if Victor Robles will be a useful player for the Nationals in 2019...but I'm equally dubious that Andrew McCutchen would be a useful player for the Nationals in 2017.

(Personally, if we're going to empty the prospect bag for a pitcher and an outfielder, I'd like Rizzo to drag Rick Hahn off to one side and walk away with Quintana and Eaton. But that's just plain rosterbation.)

NotBobby said...

You got it. I do not want to gut the system unless it gets long term control. Nats have a good system, but it seems to be top heavy. If we trade two of our top four for two years of control over one player? No thanks.

NotBobby said...

I would love to see Rizzo get two or three legit arms that are not Closers. Like sign Holland, trade for Watson, sign Ziegler, trade for Kintzler. Get two RPs like that and see what shakes up between them, Kelley and Treinen

Chas R said...

@Dezo- agreed, BUT which is more likely: Cutch will be at least "good" in 2017, with a possibility of "very good - great"; or Victor Robles will be "good" in 2019-2020? The higher percentage and the more reliable bet has got to be with Cutch.

Anonymous said...

Trading for Sale doesn't really make sense to me (even though I support it). I suspect the Nats are really targeting Cutch and are leaking Sale rumors to communicate to PIT that the Nats' offer for McCutchen might go away if PIT doesn't snap it up.

Harper said...

JE34 - Frankie Rodriguez, Wade Davis, Steve Cishek.

PotomacFan said...

That is not an impressive list, unless Davis is healthy.

blovy8 said...

Holland might be the guy who would fit here since no one has a more positive reputation with pitchers recovering from surgery than the Nats. It's probably not a risk they'll take unless he comes cheaper than expected. What Sale makes you give up in two top guys+ you have to maybe make up for a little in a B prospect for Gio if you are ready to go with who is left for #5 after the deal. The Dodgers will take him - they want all the LH starters... If we consider Cole replacement level, then at the moment there are Ross, Lopez, Giolito, Voth above him. I think the club can take that hit, especially if they can stretch Solis back into a viable back end starter. It seemed like he had trouble with pitching back to back days and might be the rare guy who's better off starting. of course, he's had trouble staying healthy by just pitching it seems.
It's probably easy to get Robertson in a Sale deal too - not sure I'd want him all that much, but he's adequate if they throw some cash in.
Is it correct to still think of Eaton as a CF? It seems to me like he's been moved to RF for guys who aren't that great like Austin Jackson.

Harper said...

blovy8 - Eaton is a CF like Bryce is a CF. But probably better! but probably not that much better! He fits better in a post Werth world. where the CF doesn't have to compensate for LF

ClassOf87 said...

Bowden reporting Giolito, Robles, low minor leaguer is proposed package for Sale, and that teams are "down the road" in discussions, just looking to agree on final pieces. I would be cool with that. Would rather move Robles for Sale than for Cutch, and I like Cutch.

Flapjack said...

Harper - You were right regarding Lito: it was fan-crazy to expect something big from him last year (probably next year, too, if I recall your post.) Some of us could be a little too high on Robles.

Given his meteoric rise up the prospect list, Robles might actually be a "sell high" opportunity. Some GM out there (not Silverman this time) might decide he has to have him. In which case, if you're Rizzo, you conjure up another bank shot. (Avila for Norris was a classic. Norris was on the radar. But Avila?) My expectation is non-specific, but I'm hoping for "deft".

I don't like including Robles in a McCutcheon deal because, in two years, the latter is off into free agency without a first rounder as compensation. In two previous high-profile trades, for Gio and Span, both acquisitions had years of control. Now, if, as part of the deal, we negotiate a 4-5 year contract with Cutch, that would more like the Rizzo we know.

Fries said...

Is anyone else just a little bit concerned about the asking price on Sale? You make a trade where your top two prospects are gone, and then what's left in the farm? A bunch of unproven arms beyond Lopez and zero position players. I think Sale is great, but selling the farm seems like a risky move given that we still have other holes to fill and now will have nothing to make those deals with. But in Rizzo I trust and I'm assuming he's in the works to land something else to replenish the farm...I hope.

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