- July 6, 2020: Take a look at the numerous preseason outlooks assessing the 2020 Major League Baseball season, and Luis Robert’s name often can be found next to the American League Rookie of the Year Award prognostication. Some pundits have gone as far as to label the White Sox center fielder as one of the game’s next superstars. But those kinds of lofty compliments don’t really affect the 22-year-old possessing five-tool talent.
“Yeah, I see or hear all of that stuff,” Robert said Monday through interpreter Billy Russo. “I try to not pay attention to that.
“I know what I can do, and sometimes if you hear all that stuff, you’re going to have more pressure, and that might not be good for you. It’s good if people say that, but I just try to not pay too much attention.”
Watching Robert in action Monday during Summer Camp batting practice sessions at Guaranteed Rate Field did nothing to dispel these high-end notions. He has the ability to launch 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. He could be a .300 hitter while stabilizing the defense in center.
Robert’s numbers across 2019 stops with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte were MVP-worthy with a .328 average, 1.001 OPS, 36 stolen bases, 32 home runs, 108 runs scored and 92 RBIs. But a closer look at Robert the athlete might make it seem as though the native Cuban is better suited for playing in the NFL secondary with the Chicago Bears, checking in at a sturdy 6-foot-2, 210 pounds.
“Someone tweeted an Under Armor mannequin, and it's actually pretty accurate,” said White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease, whom Robert connected off of for a long drive to center during live batting practice. “That's what he looks like. Besides today, I haven't really gotten an opportunity to watch him a whole lot. He squared me up good on one of them today, and he looks like he's going to be a very talented player.”
“You can find good or bad things with this dynamic we’re dealing with,” Robert said. “But now with all that’s happening, I will have almost a month to train in the ballpark before the season starts, and that’s an advantage. I really like the ballpark.”
Robert originally came to Chicago’s South Side on May 27, 2017, after agreeing to a Minor League contract that included a $26 million signing bonus. He signed a six-year, $50 million deal on Jan. 2, 2020, and he has yet to see a regular-season pitch in the Majors.
José Abreu, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada will provide guidance to Robert during his rookie campaign, with Jiménez’s advice being especially important following a slow start to the 2019 season and great recovery amid huge expectations. There will be less time for Robert to adjust in a 60-game season, but he didn’t seem worried about handling such a challenge.
“I will need to make [adjustments] as fast as I can,” Robert said. “But once the season starts, and once I start to figure out what I need to improve on to get over the difficult times, I will know then.
“My expectations and goals are always the same: Give 100 percent always on the field, help the team as much as I can and hopefully go to the postseason. And if I’m lucky enough, maybe win the Rookie of the Year. Those are my goals, and if I stay healthy, I feel confident I can do that.” (S Merkin - MLB.com - July 6, 2020)
July 26, 2020: The No. 3 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline, launched his first career home run Sunday afternoon during a Twins 14-2 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Aug.1,2020: Eloy Jiménez made Luis Robert a little angry during the 11-5 White Sox victory over the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
It wasn’t because Jiménez matched him with four hits and a home run. Robert was miffed because somewhere around the sixth inning, Jiménez began talking about both of them having a shot to hit for the cycle.
“Oh my god. I tell Luis we just need a triple in the next two at-bats,” said Jiménez during a joint Zoom session with Robert. “And he said, ‘Why did you tell me that? Now I have to focus on triples. I just want to hit the ball good.’
“I said, ‘OK, just hit it and you will get a triple.’ He was mad at me. So we got a four-hit game, and that’s good.”
Both players fell a triple short of the cycle. Robert, 22, finished with three extra-base hits and Jiménez, 23, drove in four runs, including with a three-run homer in the first inning where the ball ricocheted off center fielder Bubba Starling and flew from his glove over the fence.
But when asked who had a better chance to get that elusive triple, Jiménez thought there was no contest.
“Come on, man,” said Jiménez with a broad smile. “I’m La Pantera. He’s fake.”
Aug. 4, 2020: The 2020 season may still be young, but there have already been some very impressive performances by players in this year’s rookie class. And with teams showing more of a willingness to tap into their farm systems and promote top prospects this year, especially with more postseason berths up for grabs under MLB’s expanded 16-team playoff format, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see even more big-name prospects get the call as the season unfolds.With all that said, MLB Pipeline will be keeping tabs on this year’s rookie class throughout the 2020 season with our Rookie Power Rankings, as voted on by our team of writers.
2. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (No. 1/MLB No. 3)The hype is for real with Robert, as he’s quickly proven to be one of baseball’s more exciting players and a Statcast favorite while headlining a potent White Sox offense. The 23-year-old Cuban outfielder has hit safely in nine of 10 contests for the South Siders to open the season, giving him an impressive .350/.409/.575 line through 40 at-bats, and he’s posted a .462/.563/.846 line with five runs scored over his last three games since moving into the leadoff spot. Robert’s high-end power-speed combo is reflected in his two homers, three doubles and three steals, and he’s earned high marks defensively for his play in center field.
|Birth City:||Havana, Cuba|
|Draft:||White Sox - 2017 - Free agent - Out of Cuba|
|2016||-17||Cuba Serie Naci||12||11||38||.526||.687||.401|
In his younger days, Robert went to Japan with Cuba's 18U league. There he was by far the best player on a modestly talented Cuban team at the 18U World Cup.
He batted.406/.457/.857 in 35 plate appearances with two home runs.
Robert spent multiple seasons playing in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional , including the 2015-16 season when he batted .304/.382/.410 with 32 walks and 46 strikeouts in 317 plate appearances.
During the summer in 2016, Robert was part of a Cuban team that participated in the independent Can-Am League where he hit .286/.319/.397 in 63 at-bats with one home run, three stolen bases, four walks and 15 strikeouts.
During the 2016-17 season in Cuba's top league, Serie Nacional, Robert batted.401/.526/.687 in 232 plate appearances with 12 home runs, 38 walks (10 intentional) and 30 strikeouts. He had 11 stolen bases in 17 attempts.
Despite leaving in-season, Robert tied for third in the league in home runs and ranked fifth in stolen bases. Had he accumulated enough plate appearances to qualify, he would have led the league in both OBP (by 49 points) and slugging (by 91 points).
Luis has a strong, lean frame at 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, a wide back and quick-twitch athleticism.
Luis Robert has the talent of a first-round pick if he were in the draft. He has a strong, lean frame at 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, a wide back and quick-twitch athleticism.
Oct 2017: Luis Robert's White Sox debut with the Dominican Summer League White Sox was a glimpse of potentially significant things to come. Ever Magallanes, the White Sox Dominican Academy supervisor, put forth some of those impressive traits he witnessed from the No. 22 prospect in the Majors per MLBPipeline.com.
"He's a special kid. Power, speed," Magallanes said. "He's learning the game, playing hard. I just can't say enough good things about him."
Robert, 20, joined the White Sox via a $26 million signing bonus made official on May 27, 2017. The free-agent Cuban outfielder took part in mostly showcases for the months leading up to his signing, but adjusted quickly to game competition, posting a .310 average, .491 on-base percentage and 1.027 OPS over 84 at-bats in 24 games.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn expects Robert to be in big league camp for Spring Training in 2018. He will then be assigned to one of their Class A ball affiliates at Kannapolis or Winston-Salem to start the season, based on what they see during those six weeks in Arizona.
"From there, it wouldn't shock me if he pushed up a level or two depending on where he started in the 2018 season," Hahn said. "He has a very advanced approach at the plate, he's very physically gifted and it would not surprise me if he wound up moving on the quicker side. This will be the first time he's in the States full time, the first time he's playing baseball that regularly, the first time he has to adapt to the new culture, food and language. So we're going to give him the space he needs regardless of what level he's at to have his growing pains if that's what happens."
"Luis has already had a little bit of experience playing professionally and in Cuba," Magallanes said. "He's learning the White Sox way and the way we play baseball down here. He's been awesome and gets along with everybody."They love him. All the kids, from the get-go, everybody got along with him. Great kids. Both those guys are huge for our younger kids, the Dominicans and the Venezuelan kids we have down there."
Magallanes believes the Instructional League will be great for Robert, who was limited by right ankle and left meniscus injuries in his first White Sox season.
"He's so athletic and he has really good aptitude. So he picks things up really quick," Magallanes said. "It's going to be a pleasure to see when it all comes together. It could be pretty special." (S Merkin - MLB.com - Oct 14, 2017)
In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Robert as the 4th-best prospect in the White Sox organization. He was at #5 a year later, before 2019 spring training. Then in the spring of 2020, they rated Luis as the #1 prospect in the White Sox farm system.
2018 season: The toolsy outfielder missed much of the season due to a left thumb injury and never really got going in the Carolina League, posting a .625 OPS in 32 games at that level.
July 2019: Robert represented the White Sox at the Futures All-Star Game.
2019 Season: It’s hard to believe that Robert, a physical specimen who oozes athleticism, didn’t hit a single home run in 50 Minor League games in 2018. The power outage was chalked up to the various injuries that plagued Robert throughout the year, and he confirmed that assessment in 2019 by erupting to hit 32 homers across three levels. He had four multihomer games, including a two-homer, seven-RBI debut for Triple-A Charlotte, and hit a number of balls that have yet to land. As a runner, Robert absolutely flies.
In July at the Futures game, he reached a sprint speed of 31.3 feet per second running out a groundout to second base. (Anything above 30 ft/sec is considered elite.) That speed, along with his aggressive mindset on the basepaths, enabled him to swipe 36 bags this year and fuels his ability to rack up extra-base hits (74). He was also named MLB Pipeline Hitter of the Year.
Luis was one of just two players in the minors with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 2019. (Kyle Tucker was the other.) And he displayed strong signs of being a true five-tool player once he reaches his peak.
MLB debut - July 25, 2020: Luis Robert didn't let the big stage of his Major League debut affect his proclivity to absolutely wow us with his power. In his first big league plate appearance to open the 2020 campaign Friday night, the No. 3 overall prospect in baseball smashed a single to left field that had an exit velocity of 115.8 mph, according to Statcast.
Not only was that single Robert's first Major League hit, it also had the highest exit velocity on a player's first career hit since Statcast began tracking in 2015. In 2019, the White Sox as a club had only one batted ball with a higher exit velocity all season.
And Robert wasn't done -- in the eighth, he lined a double off the wall in right-center field with an exit velocity of 103.8 mph.
"I felt good today; I felt very good. I'm happy. I got two hits, my first two hits in the Major Leagues," said Robert through an interpreter. "I was excited. It was a little bittersweet because we lost today. You always want the team to win, and that's why we play."
In a matter of weeks, we've witnessed Robert homer while falling down in the batter's box during Summer Camp, launch two mammoth shots to the far reaches of Guaranteed Rate Field in an exhibition game, and now absolutely crush a pair of hits in his MLB debut.
And it's just the beginning for Robert, a player we may very well be marveling at for years to come. (Manny Randhawa)
May 27, 2017: The White Sox organization signed free agent Robert out of Cuba.
Jan 2, 2020: Luis Robert and the White Sox agreed to a six-year, $50 million contract, including two team options, Robert, 22, will receive $1.5 million in 2020, $3.5 million in 2021, $6 million in 2022, $9.5 million in 2023, $12.5 million in 2024 and $15 million in 2025.
The White Sox hold $20-million options for both 2026 and 2027, with $2 million buyouts for either season.
Robert is a strong righthanded hitter with power. He has excellent bat speed and a sound swing, Robert has plus power that grades 60 now, and may become 70 grade because he has room to continue filling out and increase that in the future.
"His teammates talk about him in awe,” one scout said. "Even opposing pitchers charting in the stands talk about him in reverent tones.”
Luis doesn’t walk much and swings and misses frequently, and breaking ball recognition is an issue that affects his balance. Still, his elite exit velocity should allow him to hit for a decent average. If pitchers do bring the ball in the zone, Robert can use his strong hands, muscular frame and elite bat speed to pummel pitches out to all parts of the park.
Robert is the most tooled-up player the White Sox have had in their system in years and boasts a body befitting of an NFL tight end. Luis' hit tool is his weakest tool—which is saying something after he posted a .328 average across three levels. It's because of the swing-and-miss in his game. He chases pitches out of the zone, and scouts have noticed that he has the tendency to commit a bit early on breaking balls designed to get hitters to chase. (Josh Norris - BA Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2020)
Luis has one of the best bodies in the White Sox organization. Evaluators have said he is an 80 grade athlete!
Robert improved his swing path during the 2018 season. But he still needs improved strike zone discipline. And it showed up in 2019. (June, 2019)
Luis strikes out a lot, with a lot of swing-and-miss strikes. He has a habit of swinging through high fastballs and has had trouble laying off breaking balls down and away, though at times he’s shown the ability to resist those pitches.
Robert can hammer pitches to right-center field and is at his best when he stays through the middle of the field, but he can get too pull-oriented in games.
Robert crushes fastballs. He has an aggressive approach and can get tripped up at times by spin.
In July 2019, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson was on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte. So he had the opportunity to play five games with Luis.
“Off the charts,” Anderson said of the 22-year-old center fielder. “Unbelievable player. He can hit, he can do everything. He's real good."
That might be an understatement.
2019 Season: Across stops at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, Robert had an amazing slash line of .328/.376/.624 to go with 32 home runs, 31 doubles, 11 triples, 108 runs scored, 92 RBIs and 36 stolen bases. He looms as a prime candidate for numerous Minor League Player of the Year honors.
- Jan 2020: Best power: Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (65 grade power). After going homerless in 2018, in large part because of a thumb injury that limited him to 50 games, Robert broke out in 2019 with a 30-30 season. He led the Minors with 314 total bases, recording the first 30-30-.300 line since Jose Cardenal in 1961.
He's strong and possesses some of the best bat speed in baseball. And the loft in his righthanded stroke produces majestic blasts to all fields.
Luis is a speedy centerfielder. Robert uses near-elite speed to chase balls down to all four quadrants of center field. His arm is double-plus as well, which gives a weapon not present in the skill sets of most center fielders.
And he is also above-average defensively in either left or right field.
Robert makes an impact defensively in center field. He now has great range.
- Luis has a 60 grade arm, so right field works fine.
- In 2019, he had seven outfield assists.
- “I expect that. He plays hard and he has a lot of range. That happened to me the other day. I said, ‘I got it,’ and he said, ‘Get out of here.’” -- Eloy Jiménez on Luis Robert’s range in center, after Robert took a fly ball from Leury García on July 29, 2020 in right. (Merkin - mlb.com - 7/29/2020))
Luis has 60 grade speed, or maybe 65 grade.
“He’s a pretty impressive specimen,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said.
“This kid can fly,” Renteria said. “I saw him run down to first base. I think it was like 3.56 (seconds) after a full swing on a ground ball. And he ran down a ball in right-center field, effortlessly."
July 7, 2017: Luis missed at least seven days after suffering a minor injury in the meniscus on his left knee. An ankle injury sidelined him later in the year.
March 10, 2018: Luis Robert, the No. 3 White Sox prospect and baseball's No. 28 prospect per MLB Pipeline, began the season on the disabled list.
Robert was diagnosed with a moderate Grade 2 left thumb ligament sprain. Robert suffered the injury while sliding into second base on a stolen base. He remained in the game and hit a game-winning grand slam in the eighth inning in a 14-12 victory over the Reds.
"The thumb will be immobilized for approximately the next six weeks," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "He will ideally be able to return to game action in roughly 10 weeks.
"As a result, he's obviously done for Spring Training. We would expect him probably roughly in extended games in early May. Hopefully we can adjust that timetable for the better once the cast comes off, but at this time, we view it as six weeks in a cast. He sustained the injury prior to the grand slam, which is a pretty impressive pain tolerance by the young man, and also speaks to the speed of the potential recovery here."
July 2-August 7, 2018: Robert underwent an MRI in Chicago and was diagnosed with a moderate sprain to a ligament in his left thumb. He was placed in a splint and missed 5 weeks with his second thumb injury.