White Sox: Keeping Tabs on Cuban Prospect, Luis Robert

With all of the hype surrounding the potential signing of Cuban prospect Luis Robert this summer, take a look at some things that you need to know about Robert as a player, the chances of his signing with the White Sox, and when you could expect to see him if he does in fact sign with the White Sox.

Last week I profiled Clemson slugger, and potential 2018 White Sox draft selection Seth Beer. This week I’m going to check in on another White Sox fan’s dream acquisition, Cuban Prospect Luis Robert. The White Sox have been mentioned multiple times over the past few months as a favorite to land the 19-year old outfielder, so we will be keeping tabs on the young slugger in the coming months and weeks here at The Loop Sports.

Outside of the reports that the White Sox remain a front-runner, and General Manager Rick Hahn’s statements that he would be willing to go over any cap in the international free-agent market to get a player that they wanted, the White Sox have another aspect working in their favor in the pursuit of Robert’s services, Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada.

Yoan Moncada has made it clear that playing along side fellow Cuban native Jose Abreu is a desire of his, and make no mistake that the White Sox having both Abreu and Moncada on the roster, with a Spanish speaking manager in Rick Renteria, is enough to make Luis Robert feel right at home on the south side of Chicago. In fact, the White Sox were scheduled to have a private workout with Robert sometime last week, but nothing has been publicly released in regards to the results or impressions from that workout.

While we have heard his name plenty, and seen a few short videos of him taking batting practices circulated around the internet, we really don’t know much more that what we have heard from baseball scouts and executives to this point. So who is Luis Robert?

Robert is a 19-year old, right-handed hitting and right-handed throwing outfielder who stands in at 6-foot-3, and 205 pounds. The youngster joined the Tigres de Ciego de Avila roster at the tender age of 16-years old in 2013.

As of right now, Luis Robert last played for the Cuban National Team in the Canadian-American Association (CAMA), at the end of the 2016 season, according to Baseball-Reference.

Through his 16 games with the Cuban National Team at the end of 2016, Robert posted a .286 batting average with a .319/.397/.716 slash line. Robert has also tallied one home run, two doubles, one triple, and eight RBI through his 16 games in the 2016 CAMA season. Robert also added three stolen bases in three attempts, and struck out 15 times, while drawing four walks, and scoring 12 runs for the Cuban National Team.

In his previous professional seasons in Cuba, Robert played for the Tigres de Ciego de Avila of the Cuban National Series (CNS) from 2013-2016. Over the course of his four seasons in the CNS Robert accumulated a career batting average of .311 to go along with a .406/.461/.867 slash line in 191 games with the Tigres de Ciego de Avila. Robert hit 18 homers while racking up 23 doubles, six triples, and 81 RBI during that span, and swiped 26 bases in 38 attempts. Robert struck out 112 times over that same span, but drew 80 walks as well.

So what’s it going to take to bring Robert to Chicago?

The next couple of months will be a waiting game that will revolve around a decision by Major League Baseball in regards to when Robert will be posted as an eligible international free-agent. So here’s how this works at this point;

If Major league Baseball declares Robert a free-agent prior to June 15, clubs will be able to sign Robert to a contract that would not be restricted by the signing limits that come into play with the newly approved collective bargaining agreement, and a team would face no ceiling on how high their offer could potentially go, but would still be subject to the old international signing pool bonus restrictions, basically meaning that they would pay a penalty if they exceeded their allotted amount, but would still be able to give Robert a deal like we have seen with former international prospects such as Jose Abreu, or Yoan Moncada.

If Major League Baseball declares Robert a free-agent after June 15, after the 2016-2017 signing period closes, the rules of the new CBA come into play. Basically the way that works is, teams are assigned one of three hard cap amounts to spend on international free-agents, in the amount of either $4.75 million, $5.25 million, or $5.75 million, with the smaller market teams receiving the larger caps, and the larger market teams getting the smaller cap number in the effort of leveling the playing field across the league.

According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, the likely move by Major League Baseball will be to clear Robert to be posted as a free-agent before the June 15 deadline for the 2016-2017 signing pool, meaning teams would be able to negotiate a deal with Robert free of the new CBA hard cap restrictions. Badler also points out that it is difficult to asses the potential direction of Major League Baseball in these decisions, because there is a large lack of transparency with regards to the international free-agent pool.

Badler also notes that the White Sox are the likely favorite in the bid for Robert’s services this summer as they have been laying low on international signings seemingly in an effort to target a premium talent such as Robert this summer.

When could we expect to See Robert in a White Sox uniform if he does sign with Chicago?

Many believe that Luis Robert would be a first-round talent if he was in the traditional MLB Draft, which is really saying something considering he would be a high school age draftee at this point. Once signed we can expect Robert to head immediately to a High-A or Low-A assignment with his new club.

Given his young age, and still developing frame, Sox fans could would likely have to wait until sometime during the 2019 season to see Robert make his way to the major-league level at this point. Another acquisition that would fit just right with the White Sox current time-line of success with their existing crop of youth talent.

Robert possesses a skill-set that could allow him to begin his major-league career as a center-fielder despite spending the majority of his professional career in Cuba playing corner-outfield positions. As of now, Robert is no longer playing with any team in Cuba, instead training in the Dominican Republic while holding private workouts with MLB teams and scouts.

As we approach the June 15 deadline for the 2016-2017 international signing pool, more information regarding the expectancy of Robert’s free-agency posting status should become available, as well as results from his private workouts with MLB clubs, so stay tuned Sox fans.

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