Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AL CentralAmerican LeagueAnalysisChicago White SoxMLB

La Pantera

Photo: Ian D’Andrea; Flickr

With the never ending grievance filed by Kris Bryant and his team about his service time, all eyes were on the White Sox and Luis Robert. Kris Bryant was called up 8 games into the season, because he needed more time to get comfortable. In reality, even if the Cubs never admit to it, it was because they wanted to be able to have team control over him for one extra year. Many fans were wondering what would happen with Luis Robert to start the season. The White Sox decided to be proactive and signed him to a 6 year $50MM extension, with options for the 2026 and 2027 seasons. At only 22 years old, this could be quite a steal for the White Sox. This is not the first time the White Sox decided to lock up their young phenoms to an early extension before making their Major League debut, signing Eloy Jiménez to a 6 year $43MM deal just last year.

Luis Robert was signed in May of 2017 after defecting from Cuba. He put the world on notice while playing for Ciego de Ávila in the Cuban National Series in 2017, boasting a slash line of .401/.526/.687. The White Sox were quick to offer him a deal, signing him only 7 days after he was eligible. He quickly became a fan favorite and a favorite in the clubhouse, already receiving the nickname “La Pantera”, The Panther, from his teammates. Not having to worry about whether or not he will be on the opening day roster, he was asked about his goals for the 2020 season. He quickly responded with “Novato del año”, Rookie of the year. If his success continues, he has a very good chance of ending the season with some hardware.

Entering the 2020 season Luis Robert is listed as the organizations number 1 prospect, the number 1 OF prospect in the league, and the number 3 overall prospect (according to MLB Pipeline). MLB Pipeline also has him with 60 grade power, 60 grade arm, and 65 grade speed. He showed off all those skills in 2019 with 32 HR, 36 SB, and 7 OF assists. He became the first 30/30 minor leaguer since Joc Pederson did it in 2014.

Robert has quickly moved up throughout the organization. Starting 2019 in A+, he quickly moved to AA, and ending the season in AAA. He played 19 games, 56 games, and 47 games respectively. He was a man among boys while playing in the minors, especially in A+. Slashing .453/.512/.920 with a wRC+ of 305 in only 75 AB is extremely comical and not sustainable one bit, but is great to see. He was quickly promoted to AA, where he played the bulk of his games. It is unfair to say he regressed, probably better to say he started to play to his true potential. He still was able to slash a very good .314/.362/.518 along with a wRC+ of 155. So, why not see what he can do at the highest minor league level? In AAA he slashed .297/.341/.634 with a wRC+ of 136. While he does like to pull the ball, sitting around 43.6% last year, his spray chart does show he has no problem spreading the ball around. Including using his 65 grade speed to beat out some infield hits.

2019 Spray Chart of BIP
2019 Spray Chart of Base Hits

Those numbers may seem like he may just be the perfect hitter coming up, but Robert definitely has some work to do. He is a free swinger. He strikes out a lot and does not walk much. His BB% of 5.3% and K% of 22.1% were his best at any level last year, both in AA. A BB/K of 0.24 will be taken advantage of fairly quickly in the majors once pitchers adjust to him. That doesn’t mean he will be a liability to his team by any means. In fact, he will still most likely be an upgrade.

The White Sox outfield was not very impressive last year. They had 5 different guys make at least 50 appearances in an outfield spot. With Eloy Jimenez having the most consistent appearances, making all 114 of his defensive appearances in left field. Bulk of center field was split between Adam Engel and Leury García, 86 and 80 appearances respectively. Ryan Cordell manned left field the most with 72 appearances. Charlie Tilson was the last outfielder to make at least 50 appearances in the outfield, sprinkling some appearances in all three spots. They did not fare well defensively combining for 19 errors, 8 of them in center field, and only one player with a positive DEF, with an unimpressive 0.3 from Engel. Offense wasn’t much better, unless you were Eloy Jiménez. Jiménez had the only positive OFF with an above average 12.3. All five guys combined for a 3.6 fWAR and only Jiménez having a wRC+ above 100, with 116.

PlayerfWAR wRC+E (in CF)OFFDEF
García1.3837 (4)-7.6-0.9
Jimenez1.91163 (NA)12.3-11
Cordell-0.2733 (0)-8.4-2.6
Engel0.8843 (3)-50.3
Tilson-0.2573 (1)-5.4-1.9

Even if Robert were to have some initial struggles adjusting to life in the majors, he is still poised to be an upgrade compared to last years outfield. He already has his number 1 fan in Jiménez, who thinks Robert is going to be the next Mike Trout. That’s some high praise for someone yet to take his first Major League at bat. I can guarantee you with all the new additions, including Robert, there is going to be a lot more ticket sales and a lot more singing of GO GO White Sox.

Michael Flores

Born on the South Side of Chicago, writing about the White Sox. Manage 2 dynasty teams and a yearly redraft team, also a Little League team. Follow me on Twitter @mpflores90