Nationals option top prospect Victor Robles to minors

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Top Washington Nationals prospect Victor Robles has been optioned to the minors.

Robles, 20, who is ranked as baseball's fourth-best prospect by ESPN's Keith Law, will begin the season at Triple-A Syracuse, marking his first stint at the minors' highest level. Last season, in 114 games between Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, the Dominican outfielder hit .300 with 10 home runs, 47 RBIs and 27 steals.

On Sept. 7, 2017, Robles was called up by the Nationals when outfielder Brian Goodwin suffered an injury setback. In 13 regular-season games with Washington, the speedster hit .250 (6-for-24) with two triples and impressed enough that he was able to crack the postseason roster. He appeared in two contests during the Nats' NLDS loss to the Cubs.

Unlike the demotion earlier this week of Braves prospect Ronald Acuna, who was hitting .432 during spring training, the reassignment of Robles does not appear to be motivated by concerns over service time and future free agency. In 21 Grapefruit League games, Robles was hitting .188 with 12 strikeouts and one walk.

"We try to put the best 25 on the field at the right time," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said last week when asked if red tape might factor into a potential Robles demotion. "We very rarely have put that into our calculations with special players."

The Nationals are considered to have one of the stronger outfields in baseball, with Bryce Harper, Michael A. Taylor and Adam Eaton projected to be the Opening Day starters. Goodwin and veteran Howie Kendrick are expected to be the primary backups.