As the title of this column alludes to, Luis Robert is putting up video game-like numbers for Winston-Salem and it’s time the White Sox increase the difficulty level. I am in no way alluding to rushing Robert through the minor league system. Robert’s main concern through his young career has been staying healthy. Last year in 2018, Robert played a mere 50 games due to a range of nagging injuries. The best thing for Robert to experience is consistency on the field, but it should be against improved competition. Whether that be in Birmingham or Charlotte in the near future, Robert should experience some sort of acceleration on his path through the White Sox farm system. So far this season, Robert has truly shown he has all the tools to be an absolute impact player in the White Sox rebuild.
In January, Robert ranked #3 on my preseason Chicago White Sox Top 50 Prospects list and I ended his player profile with “Expect big things from Robert in 2019.” Robert had a very solid Arizona Fall League stint and picked up right where he left off, and then some, to start the 2019 campaign with the A+ Dash. Through the first nine games of the MiLB season, Robert is slashing .475/.512/1.025 which is absurd, even if it is just nine games. If we take away Robert’s April 9th performance in which he went 0 for 5, Robert would be batting .542. Of course, that is not how baseball works, but it just goes to show how much of a show Robert has put on to open the season for the Dash.
To the surprise of no one, Luis Robert has been named the Carolina League Player of the Week!
Robert leads the CL in average (.475), OBP (.512), SLG (1.025), OPS (1.537), hits (19), HR (5), runs (13), 3Bs (2), RBIs (15) and total bases (41).
— Winston-Salem Dash (@WSDashBaseball) April 15, 2019
Robert has also had multi-hit games in eight of the first nine games, including a multi-home run game and a game in which he was a long ball away from the cycle. Robert has also shown his ability to place the ball in all fields this year. Last year, Robert did not see his pull rate exceed 50%, however, through the first nine games, Robert has a 58.1% pull rate. An increased pull rate shows that his power is developing even more so than expected. To me, Robert has plus power, plus speed, and is above average in the field. He has shown this through the first part of the year, with 5 HR, 10 XBH, and 3 SB. With much success for Robert in A+ ball, and (Eloy excluded), much subpar outfield performances for the major league team, many people are beginning to ponder the idea of accelerating Robert’s path to the majors.
The game has certainly changed within the past 10 or so years when it comes to prospects being progressed through the ranks. A recent surge of youth has created an aura that prospects being 23, 24, or 25 and debuting in the majors is somewhat older than what most perennial stars and highly touted prospects experience. Ronald Acuna Jr. debuted at 20, Juan Soto debuted 19, Eloy Jimenez debuted at 22, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is surely to debut at 20.
I certainly believe that Robert has the star power to be lumped together with some of the game’s youngest and brightest stars. Robert is currently 21-years-old and turns 22 this August. As excited as it may be to imagine Robert in a White Sox uniform, I’d personally give him a 5% chance of debuting during the 2019 baseball season. It’s a bit more realistic to expect him to debut at some point at the start of 2020. Still, Robert should be 22-years-old when he makes his debut for the Sox which gives White Sox fans yet another reason to look forward to the coming years.
The most important thing for Luis Robert is to stay on the field. I am in no way saying that Robert should have a Juan Soto-esque path to the show THIS YEAR. With Juan Soto’s unbelievable surge in 2018, recency bias leads us to believe that if Robert keeps it up, he should be up with the White Sox this year. With that being said, many prospects have been derailed due to a team rushing them to get to the majors. I am more so thinking the White Sox take a more patient approach with him. It’s clear that Robert has all the raw tools to be a big leaguer, but with his limited play in North America, much development still needs to occur. By taking a more patient approach with Robert, he will get his consistent at-bats in the minors, develop even more as a center fielder and hopefully will be up on the South Side this time in 2020. Having Robert skip Birmingham and go directly to Charlotte soon is certainly an option for the White Sox, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up for any more acceleration other than AAA this season.
A not so bold prediction is that Luis Robert will be a the White Sox #1 prospect for my midseason Top 50 come this summer. A bit more bold prediction is that Robert will be a top 10 prospect in all of baseball come midseason. Robert certainly is not going to perform anywhere near where he has performed thus far, but with prospect graduations and continued development, Robert will certainly have MiLB and Sox fans alike monitoring him closely as a top 10 prospect.
Robert has 20 HR and 20 SB potential and I personally feel that that is being modest. Robert has the raw tools to be a superstar if he can remain on the field. If and when he stays healthy and when he reaches the show, White Sox fans should imagine yet another superstar in the making. It’s a very scary thought that the White Sox could possibly have Jimenez and Robert in the same outfield next year. Both players have top tier potential and very well may be in the same lineup come this time next year.