Luis Robert, playing across Atlantic waters in Cuba, certainly made waves this year for the White Sox. In our third installment of end-of-season prospect recaps, it’s time to analyze Robert and his impact in the Chicago system.
Savvy deals are an underrated part of being a general manager. Sure, you might make a couple of nice draft picks, build a decent team, and earn a playoff bid, but can you win a trade? Can you outbid another GM for a star? Can you weave contracts that allow you to construct a great team under the salary cap? These actions define savvy.
If you’re Rick Hahn, then the signing of Luis Robert proved your savvy. This May, Robert was the top international prospect on the market. A speedy center-fielder with some pop, every MLB team sent a representative to evaluate Robert in Cuba.
After weeks of speculation, the frontrunners seemed to be the White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. First, Hahn won the battle, and second, reports claimed that he paid Robert less than what the Cards offered. Double savvy.
The 20 year-old phenom finally debuted with the Dominican Summer League White Sox on June 12. He promptly kicked off his professional career with a home run in that game. By the end of June, Robert was sporting a .277/.500/.426 hitting line.
Luis Robert conectó este batazo en la DSL, su primer jonrón como profesional.
— MLB Cuba (@mlbcuba) June 12, 2017
Those numbers were a bit underwhelming. Typically, on-base percentages are inflated due to the untamed arms in the DSL, so getting on-base half the time isn’t as impressive as it sounds. Furthermore, the batting average and slugging percentages were below what you might expect out of a then-top-40 prospect. Still, he had played 18 games.
At the start of July, Robert suffered a left knee injury. The Chicago Tribune called it a “minor meniscus injury,” which may not have been as specific as everyone hoped. True to expectations, Robert rebounded within a month and was back on the humid Dominican fields in August.
Robert returned on August 1 in similar triumphant fashion to how he started the summer: with a home run. After that, he played solid for a week before injuring himself again. Chicago heaved a collective sigh of relief when news broke that it was simply a right ankle sprain. Make no mistake, I would have been worried if it was his knee again; thankfully, just a mere ankle sprain.
Robert graced the diamond again on August 23, and made the most out of his last four contests. He finished the season with a line of .310/.491/.536, although that’s hardly a good indicator of his future.
Still, his performances displayed a few key things. In 27 games with more than one at-bat, Robert reached base in a whopping 26 of them. His OBP, although inflated like I mentioned, illustrates his ability to lay off bad pitches. And finally, a slugging percentage well over .500 is encouraging.
Additionally, the center-fielder swiped 12 bags over his 28 total games. That ratio will decrease in the majors, but that’s a stellar aggressive total. Furthermore, Robert committed no errors in 28 games. Again, not significant, but nice to see.
For now, these are all just little encouraging factoids. Evaluating him seriously just isn’t possible until he gets a full season under his belt. But it can’t hurt to get excited over four nice weeks of baseball.
As has become apparent over the last two months, the White Sox really aren’t that bad. Before tonight’s slaughter at the hands of Cleveland, the South Siders were 25-25 in their last 50 games.
Taking a near-average team, and adding Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, and maybe Zack Collins is a recipe for a wild card chase. Of course, Robert will undoubtedly still be in the minors at this time next year. However, if the Sox do play well next season, 2019 should be a playoff team for sure.
The question remains, will Robert progress enough to join that 2019 contender at some point? It’s impossible to say now, but I believe the White Sox should consider it. Projections may have him debuting in 2020, but those really don’t mean much.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. For now, Robert will begin the 2018 campaign with either Class A Kannapolis or Class A+ Winston-Salem, according to Rick Hahn yesterday. A-ball is way superior to the DSL, so the important question is how will Robert handle the adjustment?
Like his hair and pretty much everything he does on the field, let’s hope it’s pretty damn smooth.