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Washington Nationals Finally Give Up on Former Top Prospect

Heading into 2019, many expected the Washington Nationals to contend for a championship thanks to a breakout performance from a top outfield prospect. And while evaluators were correct about the team winning in this fashion, nobody anticipated Juan Soto being that youngster. Instead, they expected it from Víctor Robles.

Unfortunately, Robles struggled throughout his major league career and Washington has finally given up. On Monday, the Nationals designated Robles for assignment and activated outfielder Lane Thomas from the injured list.

Victor Robles Designated for Assignment by Washington

Many publications ranked Robles as the top prospect in the Nationals system from 2017-19. Evaluators considered him a five-tool player who could be a game-changer in a potential post-Bryce Harper Nationals team. His talent led Washington to call him in September 2017 as a 20-year-old as the team pushed for a playoff berth.

Though he didn’t hit much, he displayed his speed and fielding abilities and earned a spot on the postseason roster. This cup of coffee excited many and Robles seemed prime to break out in 2018.

However, he started the season in Triple-A and hurt his elbow in the fourth game of the season. He missed three months but hit well after returning in July. He even produced his best stretch in the majors when Washington promoted him in September.

Unfortunately, this is how Robles’ career has gone. In eight years, the speedster has played more than 132 games in a season only once. Even when healthy, his performance left much to be desired. He is a career 81 OPS+ hitter and has tallied -3 Defensive Runs Saved in center field since 2020. And when he did show some progression, it seemed that he would always regress with dumb plays and/or injuries.

Though it seemed like his time in Washington was over a few years ago, the team decided to keep him around via arbitration during the rebuild. With not much to play for, it made sense to see if Robles could possibly be a late bloomer in a low-expectation environment.

This obviously did not manifest, and the Nationals decided to designate Robles for assignment several days after his 27th birthday.

Nationals Activate Lane Thomas From The Injured List

While Robles never broke out, Thomas did last year by hitting .268/.315/.468 (115 OPS+) in 156 games. Though he represented a clear trade chip, Washington held on to Thomas at last summer’s deadline hoping he could be a piece on the next winning Nationals team.

That is still a realistic possibility, but Thomas got off to a rough start this season before hurting his knee. In 96 plate appearances, the 28-year-old hit .184/.250/.253 and tallied a bWAR of -0.7. That said, the former Cardinal has hit well during his rehab assignment and should bounce back in the majors.

The Nationals control Thomas through next season but currently have multiple high-caliber outfield prospects. There’s no doubt that Jacob Young, James Wood and Dylan Crews can take over Washington’s outfield by the end of this year. Plus, 20-year-old Elijah Green could debut by 2026.

Thomas’ future will represent one of the more intriguing storylines over the next year. The veteran should bounce back in terms of health and performance this season. However, will that help him cement his future in Washington via contract extension? Or will he play himself out of the nation’s capital via trade?

Main Photo: © Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports


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