I’ll be honest, I have always been a fervent supporter of Hansel Robles. I always appreciated his moxy, and his durable arm was always a plus. His quick pitch antics against the Phillies rubbed many the wrong way, including former Met Jeff Francouer. However, he has always showed flashes of potential power from the mound every now and then. The problem with Robles is exactly that: he has only shown potential.
When he came up in 2015, Robles became an instant spark plug for the team. His first action came against the crosstown rival Yankees, where he was able to get out of a bases loaded jam. His 2015 season is most remembered for his incident against Darin Ruf. While Ruf had his head down, Robles fired a pitch in, to the ire of many Phillies players and managers. Later in the season, Robles threw at Cameron Rupp, causing benches to clear. As a result, Robles was handed a 3 day suspension from Major League Baseball, which carried over to 2016. The final line for Robles in 2015 was a 3.67 ERA in 54 innings, with 61 strikeouts.
Robles was expected to be a huge part of the 2016 season, with the “rubber arm” label placed on him. He continued to contribute from the pen, and even improved his level of play. He finished 2016 with a 3.48 ERA, an improvement over the season before, in 77.2 innings pitched with 85 innings pitched. In 2017, Robles took a step back from his performance. He struggled to the point where he was forced to be sent down to the minor leagues. His control had completely been lost, accounting for 29 walks in 56.2 innings pitched. His ERA ballooned to 4.92, and became unreliable out of the pen.
Coming into the spring, Robles knew he had a lot to prove. This should be a make or break season for the 27 year old, who needs to show that he has command and that he can be reliable out of the bullpen. In two innings so far this spring, Robles has not shown much improvement. He has allowed 4 runs over two innings of work, and has lacked the command that he needs to show to stay in this bullpen.
If Robles does not start to improve quickly, he could be in danger of losing a spot in the bullpen. There are a lot of young guns just trying to break into the pen, in addition to the already steady Jerry Blevins, Jeurys Familia, and A.J Ramos. Anthony Swarzak suffered a calf strain, but don’t expect him to miss significant time. Factor in that Zach Wheeler could potentially be in the bullpen, and the chance of Robles losing a position in the bullpen increases. Although his “rubber arm” may be useful in long relief appearances, it is useless if he can’t keep control. He has blown too many close games during the middle innings for me to stomach. His potential better turn into reality soon, or else he will find himself in Las Vegas this season.