Overall, 2020 wasn’t great for Victor Robles . Across 52 games, he hit just three home runs, swiped four bags and posted a measly .220/.293/.315 slash line. The skinny on Robles’ 2020 season is that his already underwhelming Statcast profile got worse. Some of his peripherals took a downturn and he didn’t run as much as many expected. He was fresh off a 17-home run, 28-stolen base season, so many fantasy baseball owners have a bad taste in their mouth from Robles’ 2020 campaign. Can he bounce back? He’s proven to have overcome his Statcast deficiencies before, but can he do it again?
His walk rate dropped a bit, but the jump in his strikeout rate is more worrisome. Statistically, he was worse at the plate, and the peripherals agree. It’s hard for your strikeout rate not to increase when you make less contact, you swing out of the zone more than ever before and you post a swinging strike rate higher than each of the past two seasons. Additionally, when you look at his run value by pitch type, courtesy of Baseball Savant, he was average or below average against all pitches except splitters and cutters, which he saw less than ten-percent of the time.
Okay. I didn’t want to come right out and talk about Robles and Statcast, and aside from a brief mentioning in the beginning, I made it a couple paragraphs in. However, the time has come. His batted ball profile is not ideal, specifically the atrocious exit velocity and hard contact rates. Compared to 2019, his already low average exit velocity of 83.3 miles per hour dropped to 82.2 miles, bottoming out in the lowest percentile of qualified hitters in 2020. His hard contact rate was in the fourth percentile in 2019, and dropped down to the second percentile in 2020. Lastly, his barrel rate of 4.8 percent in 2019 is bad, but passable for him, but in 2020, it dropped to 1.7 percent.
Furthermore, Robles ranked in the bottom-seventh percentile or worse in exit velocity, hard hit rate, xwOBA, xBA and barrel rate. Sheesh!
Additionally on Statcast, the added muscle weight for the 2020 season hurt him in numerous aspects. His percentile in terms of his jump and reaction in the outfield was considerably down, and his sprint speed even took a hit.
Sprint Speed (ft/s)
Per Baseball Savant
Jump (Feet vs. Avg)
Per Baseball Savant
Robles is playing over the Winter in the Dominican Republic and a reporter mentioned that it was to “acclimate to some muscle weight.” The added weight slowed him on the base paths, in the outfield, and potentially posed some issues at the plate. Monitoring his body composition heading into the season and whenever your fantasy baseball draft occurs is key.
For all of his shortcomings at the plate, he’s shown that he can compile the stats in time. The attraction to draft Robles is that he’s a power/speed guy who is just one year removed from hitting 17 home runs and stealing 28 bases. At this point, I’m not entirely convinced that his exit velocity or hard contact is going to substantially improve, at least rapidly for 2021’s sake, but the other shortcomings in his offensive peripherals are more concerning for his 2021 outlook. If he continues to leave the zone and swing and miss at an elevated rate, he’s going to be in some trouble. You can’t steal bases if you don’t get on base!
He’s in a situation where he can succeed, and Washington is going to give him a lengthy leash. There’s a nice buying opportunity for Robles this year, as he’s currently the 43rd outfielder off the board, per NFBC data. In 15-team formats, Robles is going toward the end of the 11th round, and outside the first 150 picks, Robles is one of the better power/speed guys you’ll be able to add to your team. I don’t believe that 12-15 home runs and 25+ stolen bases is out of the question for Robles, but where his batting average ends up is the big question. However, there’s room to profit on Robles, and at his current price, I’ll buy into a bounce back campaign.