With spring training winding down, the Washington Nationals have no obvious holes on their roster.
They still need a left–handed reliever to step up and separate themselves from the rest of the pack but that’s not really pressing at the moment. However, one major question that needs to be answered is what will the Nationals do with Victor Robles?
At just 20 years old, Robles is the Nationals #1 overall prospect in their farm system and is currently ranked as the #6 overall prospect according to MLB.com. With the ability to play any outfield position, Robles projects to be the Nationals center fielder of the future. The problem with that is that the current center fielder for the Nationals, Michael A. Taylor, is only 26 years old. So what should the Nationals do? The answer is simple: start Robles.
Both Robles and Taylor have struggled this spring at the plate with Robles batting .222 and Taylor batting .185 respectively. However, Robles has flashed during his time in West Palm Beach. Whether it be his incredible defensive range, diving catches, or stand up triples, Robles has become a box office attraction. You can just feel the buzz in the park when he steps up to bat or when the ball is hit his way because you just know something spectacular could happen. Robles’ name has come up in trade rumors but general manager Mike Rizzo has made it clear that Robles is untouchable.
The Nationals need to start Robles when they start the season in Cincinnati on March 29th because he needs to play every day against premier talent. He has shown that he has outgrown the minor league and has nothing left to prove in Potomac. If you start Robles in center and bat him 8th, not only are you getting elite defense but you are getting a speedy guy at the bottom of the lineup who has a knack for getting on base. Now, if you start Robles, what do you do with Taylor?
Taylor carved himself out a piece of D.C. sports history with his eighth inning grand slam in game 4 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. It was an incredible moment that Nationals fans could celebrate for a short time before the Nationals ultimately fell in the deciding game 5. Taylor has shown great ability with the bat and his glove but should he actually start? After Eaton went down with a season ending injury, Taylor stepped in and did well batting .271 with 19 home runs and 53 RBI’s but his strikeouts still were prevalent and he ended the year with 137 total.
Taylor will also be a free agent after the 2018 season after signing his tender in January making him even more expendable. The hesitation to part with Taylor of course is that if Bryce Harper leaves in free agency, you have a big whole in the outfield that I’m sure the Nationals brass want to fill with Taylor. However, the Nationals have good, young outfield depth with Brian Goodwin and minor leaguer Juan Soto lurking as well.
Since Taylor is not your center fielder of the future and is in a contract year, why not package him for another star pitcher or an upgrade to Matt Wieters at catcher? Perhaps Miami would be willing to part with J.T. Realmuto for a deal surrounding Taylor or maybe the Tampa Bay Rays would like Taylor enough to deal Chris Archer to Washington.
Those are extreme examples but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that dealing Taylor can net you a big prize in return. Taylor is a very, very good young player, but Robles is a franchise altering type of player. I don’t think there’s a big dip in production at all from Taylor to Robles and in fact, it could be an upgrade. It’s time for the Nationals to put all their chips in the middle and make a run at their first ever World Series championship.
(Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)