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Washington Nationals Fantasy Superlatives: Victor Robles Breakout May be a Year Away

The Washington Nationals World Series run in 2019 may delay the development of their young prospects as they try to make another postseason push. SI Fantasy's Shawn Childs directs you on the Nats players to monitor.

Breakout: OF Victor Robles

In his rookie season with the Nationals, Robles saw 73 percent of his at-bats hitting 7th, 8th, and 9th in the batting order. He struggled in his limited time in the two-hole (.223 with four HRs, 12 RBI, and nine SBs over 112 at-bats).

His walk rate (5.7) came in below his minor league career (7.6) with a slightly below par strikeout rate (22.7).

Robles played better before the All-Star break (.246 with 47 runs, 13 HRs, 37 RBI, and 12 SBs over 289 at-bats) while doing more damage in speed (17 SBs) over the final three months.

Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .300 with 28 home runs, 155 RBI, and 129 steals over 1,438 at-bats.

His hard-hit rate (23.0) ranked 450th in baseball, which tells me his power isn’t ready to make a more significant push until he gets stronger.

Hidden in his stat line is 25 times hit by a pitch, which invites injury risk along with his aggressive style of play.

Washington needs to pair him with Trea Turner at the top of the order. With an ADP of 70, a fantasy owner should expect growth in his approach, steals, and power. His next step was supposed to be .270 with 90 runs, 15 home runs, 70 RBI, and 40 stolen bases. An intriguing player, but he may be a year away from being a stud.

Deep Sleeper: SS Carter Kieboom

Kieboom played well in 2019 at AAA (.303 with 79 runs, 16 HRs, 79 RBI, and five SBs over 412 at-bats).

The Nationals gave him a late April call-up after the injury to Trea Turner, but he struggled to make contact (.128 over 39 at-bats with two HRs, and two RBI, and 16 Ks).

Over four seasons in the minors, Kieboom hit .287 with 45 home runs, 208 RBI, and 18 steals over 1,259 at-bats. His walk rate (11.6 ) grades well while offering a league-average strikeout rate (20.1).

With Anthony Rendon signing with the Angels, Kieboom looks poised to get his shot in the majors in 2020. His average hit rate (1.624) is high enough to reach 20-plus home runs in the majors with a full season of at-bats.

Fantasy owners price him as a starter in deep leagues based on his ADP (310). Upside player, but his path isn’t as great as it should be with Washington wanting to make another World Series push.

Value: 2B Starlin Castro

Castro starts 2020 at age 30 while having 1,617 hits. He looks well on his way to 3,000 hits if he keeps a starting job and stays healthy for the next decade.

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His best overall play came in 2011 and 2012 (.295 with 169 runs, 24 HRs, 144 RBI, and 47 SBs over 1,320 at-bats).

In 2019, Castro set a career-high in home runs (22) and RBI (86) while playing for one of the lowest-scoring teams in baseball.

His average hit rate (1.587) was his best since 2016 (1.603), but it doesn’t support a big push in power. Castro has a favorable strikeout rate (16.4) while barely taking any walks (4.1).

His lack of home runs comes from a ground ball swing (47.9 percent – 49.6 in 2018). He had his best HR/FB rate in 2017 (16.2) with a slight rebound last year (12.5).

Castro adds value against left-handed pitching (.323 with nine HRs and 21 RBI over 164 at-bats) while shining in 2019 after the All-Star break (.302 with 44 runs, 16 HRs, 52 RBI over 285 at-bats).

A back-end second base option with a chance at a .280/70/20/80 season with an ADP of 255 in the draft season. Castro needs a change in swing path to see higher levels in home runs.

Bust: SP Patrick Corbin

Corbin rewarded his believers last season with a comparable season as his breakout year in 2018. He matched his career-high in wins (14) with a minor step back in his ERA (3.25 – 3.15 in 2018) and strikeouts (238 – 246 in 2018).

His batting average against (.227) remained strong with a high strikeout rate (10.6), but there was some erosion in his walk rate (3.1 – 2.2 in 2018) and HR/9 rate (1.1 – 0.7 in 2018).

Corbin had a 2.85 ERA and 81 strikeouts over his first 11 starts, including one disaster game (six runs and ten base runners over five innings).

Over his next three starts, he gave fantasy owners some buyer remorse (16 runs, 29 baserunners, and four home runs over 12.2 innings).

Corbin settled down over his next 18 starts (2.24 ERA, .214 BAA, and 136 Ks over 112.1 innings) to help Washington push for the playoffs. A chance at a sub 3.00 ERA ended with a poor showing in his final game of the year (six runs and nine baserunners over 4.1 innings).

His arm ran out of gas in the postseason (5.79 ERA and 36 Ks over 23.1 innings), partly due to regression in his walk rate (4.6).

Corbin allowed 22 of 24 home runs to right-handed batters while owning a more significant edge vs. lefties (.190) and at home (8-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 125 Ks over 105 innings).

His AFB (92.5) had more life than in 2018 (91.3). He relies heavily on his elite slider (.160 BAA while accounting for 182 of his strikeouts), which Corbin threw 37.7 percent of the time. His show-me curveball (.200 BAA) had success. He tried a few more changeups (.367 BAA) while his sinker (.275 BAA) graded as a slight negative.

In 2020, Corbin will be drafted as a borderline SP1 with an ADP of 45 (12th pitcher drafted).

With two elite runs on the year covering 29 starts, he does look stable again this year. The high volume of sliders may turn into an elbow issue at some point soon.

If his arm regresses, it could get ugly. For now, more of the same, but I won’t fight for him on draft day.

Deep Sleeper: SP Joe Ross

The Nationals lost Ross in mid-July in 2017 with a right elbow injury that required TJ surgery.

Over his first eight seasons in the minors, he went 24-26 with a 3.64 ERA and 363 strikeouts over 443 innings.

Ross had a low strikeout rate (7.4) in the minors with strength in his walk rate (2.6).

His stuff played better over his first 35 games in the majors in 2015 and 2016 (12-10 with a 3.52 ERA and 162 Ks over 181.2 innings).

In 2018, he had a 2.39 ERA over 26.1 innings in the minors with 19 strikeouts before getting lit up in three starts with Washington (5.06 ERA and seven Ks over 16 innings).

Last year he struggled at AAA (4.28 ERA and 32 Ks over 40 innings) with further regression with the Nationals (5.48 ERA and 57 Ks over 64 innings).

His strikeout rate (8.0) in the majors fell in line with his early resume, but he walked 4.6 batters per nine.

Ross had a bounce up in his fastball (94.5), but all of his pitches (four-seam, sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball) had no value.

Ross will compete for the fifth starting job in March. If his command rebounds, he has a chance to surprise in 2020. 

READ MORE: 2020 Washington Nationals Fantasy Team Preview

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