Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he’s taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here’s a look at Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert.. Signed by the White Sox for $26 million in 2017 after defecting from Cuba the previous fall, Luis Robert
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he’s taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here’s a look at Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert..
Signed by the White Sox for $26 million in 2017 after defecting from Cuba the previous fall, Luis Robert has quickly vaulted up prospects lists in three years and is ranked No. 3 overall by MLB.com. With an incredible skill set that helps him succeed in all facets of the game, the 22-year-old inked a new six-year deal in January as he nears his Major League debut. His combination of power and speed make him a solid foundational piece and a potential future star for the White Sox as they look to return to prominence in the AL Central.
2017: Rookie-level Dominican Summer League
Robert spent the first part of his White Sox tenure in the Rookie-level DSL, where he first demonstrated just how impressive he can be at the plate. On June 12, he made his debut with a bang, homering and drawing a walk against the D-backs. The outfielder compiled a .310/.491/.536 slash line with three roundtrippers among 12 extra-base hits in only 28 games. He did not have enough plate appearances to qualify, but Robert would have led the circuit with a 1.027 OPS. He finished the year with nine multi-hit games, including a pair of three-hit performances.
Using his 65-grade speed, Robert swiped 12 bases in 15 tries. Twice, he stole two bases in one game, once on June 17 and again on June 30.
Robert was perfect defensively, playing errorless ball and notching two outfield assists in 142 2/3 innings.
2018: Class A Kannapolis, Class A Advanced Winston Salem, Rookie-level Arizona League
The Cuba native got his unofficial introduction to stateside baseball when he was invited to big league Spring Training and didn’t disappoint. In the Cactus League, he blasted a grand slam in his first full game and finished with a .300 average and 1.017 OPS in a nine-game stint. However, he sprained his thumb and did not make his regular-season debut until June 5.
Joining Kannapolis for his initiation to full-season play, he proved ready for South Atlantic League competition. In his second game with the Intimidators, Robert collected two hits, including a double. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound outfielder amassed five multi-hit showings across 13 games in his brief time in the Sally League.
On June 21, Robert earned his first promotion when he moved up to the Carolina League. Much like his other stops, he got out of the gates flying with three knocks in his first two games. His eighth game at the new level proved to be the high-water mark of Robert’s season when he delivered his first four-hit game and drove in three runs. Unfortunately, he re-injured his left thumb and was on the shelf again, missing most of July.
• Watch: Robert makes a leaping grab at the wall
Robert returned to action on July 31 when he began a five-game rehab stint in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He rejoined Winston-Salem on Aug. 7 and promptly ripped two hits and scored a run.
In a season cut short by injuries, Robert batted .269/.333/.360 with 15 stolen bases across three levels. He made up for the lost time in the Arizona Fall League by hitting .324 with an .800 OPS to earn a spot on the AFL All-Prospect Team as well as a Rising Stars nod. It proved to be a preview of a transcendent 2019 campaign.
2019: Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham, Triple-A Charlotte
After again mashing in the Cactus League with a 1.125 OPS in eight games, Robert rejoined the Dash to start the regular season and put on display all the tools he possesses when healthy. The slugger, who went all of 2018 without a long ball, whacked two in his 2019 debut. It started a string of five multi-hit games and 10 of 12 overall. He took home Player of the Week honors on April 14, the first in a series of accolades he piled up before the year’s end.
“Everybody knows what he’s capable of since the day we signed him,” Winston-Salem manager Justin Jirschele told MiLB.com in mid-April. “His tools are off the charts, he’s electric in everything that he does and, obviously, he’s putting it all together here in the early going and off to a tremendous start in all facets of the game.”
Robert saved his best game for the final day of April, going 4-for-5 and falling a double shy of the cycle. It upped his average to .453, wRC+ to 305 and helped earn him Carolina League Player of the Month laurels and a promotion to Double-A on April 30.
It took Robert three games to get acclimated to the Southern League, where he produced another four-hit contest on May 4 and a three-hit game the following day. He batted .314 with an .880 OPS with the Barons to secure a spot in the All-Star Game. He made the midseason showcase his own, delivering a double and a homer and taking home the MVP award. Three weeks later, Robert represented the White Sox in the All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland, starting in center field for the American League.
“A freak of nature, a phenom,” Barons hitting coach Charles Poe told MiLB.com in November. “A lot of things come to my brain, but I knew when [the White Sox signed] Luis that he was something special.”
• Watch: Robert homers off the scoreboard
Two days after his trip to Cleveland, Robert climbed another rung and joined Triple-A Charlotte. In 47 games at the Minors’ highest level, he kept rolling with 31 extra-base hits, including 16 homers. On Aug. 24, he went yard against Norfolk and became one of two Minor Leaguers with 30 homers and 30 steals.
When all was said and done, Robert had 32 homers, 36 stolen bases, 74 extra-base hits and a .328/.376/.624 slash line. One of two players to finish the year with at least 20 homers, 20 steals and an OPS over 1.000, he closed his International League stint with a 136 wRC+. And defensively, he picked up a career-best seven outfield assists.
There were more honors in the offseason, when he was given the Top Offensive Player MiLBY award, was named an Organization All-Star and a member of the 2019 All-MiLB Team. Oh, and MLB Pipeline tabbed him Hitter of the Year.
With an extraordinary season in the books, Robert began the new year with a new $50 million contract and hit .333/.394/.567 in an abbreviated Spring Training.
When play resumes, he’ll resume his battle for a spot in the Opening Day outfield on Chicago’s South Side.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.