Better plate discipline could move up Robles in Nats’ order

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP)Given a chance to play last season, Victor Robles swung right into action for the Washington Nationals.

Now they’d like him to swing a little less.

The 22-year-old Robles gave the Nationals a good look at what he can bring in the future, helping them win the World Series.

A stellar center fielder, he hit 17 home runs, stole 28 bases and batted .255. He also struck out 140 times while drawing only 35 walks.

”I want to see him work at-bats and try to get on base, but with that being said not try to take away his aggressiveness,” manager Dave Martinez said.

If Robles can accomplish that, he could move way up in the batting order.

”It could be something where Robles against lefties hits up at the top, against righties he hits down the bottom again, or maybe hits ninth,” Martinez said.

With Trea Turner entrenched at leadoff, Martinez said he is considering regularly employing Robles in lefty-hitting Adam Eaton’s No. 2 slot against lefties.

”I think he’s starting to really understand how to control the strike zone,” Martinez said. ”As a young hitter, when you start doing that and you’ve got the ability he has it’s going to help him.”

Robles, a career .300 hitter as a minor leaguer, got his opportunity to play last season after star outfielder Bryce Harper signed with Philadelphia.

Robles hit .290 in August, but fell off in the postseason. He hit only .219 (9 for 41) and fanned 15 times with only two walks.

”I think this year he’s really going to get a lot better,” Martinez said.

The righty-hitting Robles actually hit a few points higher against righties than he did lefties, but he reached base against lefties at a 30-point higher clip than against righties.

Robles started 28 games last season in the No. 2 spot, but the vast majority of his at-bats came from the bottom third of the order.

Martinez is looking for better plate disciple from Robles this spring. Robles’ development in Grapefruit League action took a hit when he missed nine days because of an injury to his side.

Robles returned to game action on Saturday, notching his first spring hit along with a walk in three plate appearances. Serving once again as Washington’s designated hitter on Sunday against Detroit, Robles went hitless but walked twice.

Once considered among the elite prospects in baseball, Robles has yet to make the kind of major league impact as teammate Juan Soto, who is younger than Robles and was ranked lower on the prospect list.

”It’s not fair to compare those two guys,” Martinez said. ”Robles does things differently. He steals bases for us. When he gets on, virtually it’s a double.”

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