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New World Order: 2020 White Sox Previews – Luis Robert

Continuing our trip trough the outfield, we now come to the most exciting White Sox prospect since, well, last year in the form of Luis Robert. Although, with all due respect to Eloy Jimenez who is universally loved by myself and all Sox fans with a right mind, Robert represents much more hope and potential than Eloy did at this time last year. Similar to Yoan Moncada, the growth and play of Robert is going to be the true key to the White Sox reaching their goal of winning a championship, be that in 2020 (however unlikely that may be) or in the future.

2019 MiLB Stats

.328/.376/.624, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 32 SB

5.1 BB%, 23.4 K%

.396 wOBA, 136 wRC+ in AAA (29 games)

4 Total Errors across all levels

Last Week on Nitro: Robert basically became a real life video game character in 2019 posting just stupidly good numbers at every single stop he made in the minors. As a 21-year-old repeating High-A, he was a pitcher’s worse nightmare put up an obscene .453/.512/.920 slash line with a 305 wRC+ (!!!!!!!!!) in 19 games there to start the year. None of that was a typo. Go back and re-read it. Okay, now catch your breath, because it doesn’t exactly get less impressive. In AA at Regents Park (the one that suppresses offense) he slashed .314/.362/.518 with a 155 wRC+, and then he moved to AAA where all he did was go .297/.341/.634 with a 136 wRC+. Ho hum.

The more Robert tore up the minors last year, the more I wrote about calling him up immediately. In the end, the Sox did not do that obviously, which we can argue about until we are blue in the face but they ultimately *sorta* made it okay by signing him to an 8-year contract extension that virtually guarantees he will be on the Opening Day roster. These contracts are basically the Sox bread-and-butter, as they’ve now done these with Robert, Eloy, Moncada, and Tim Anderson after having done it with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana which then allowed them acquire a great deal of those players. But in Robert’s case, it’s especially good because A) the Sox have their guy with “best player in the world” potential locked up for 8 years and B) we as Sox fans get to enjoy the shit out Robert’s torrid start to Spring Training (.370/.433/.603 line in 30 PA’s) without the grain of salt that he’d be starting 2020 in the minors. Robert is far from the only source of hope Sox fans have for the future of this team moving forward, but he is perhaps the greatest personification of the hope that this will finally come to fruition.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): Let’s just go full-torqued for this one, because it’s best-case scenario after all. How incredible would it be if Luis Robert just… didn’t stop hitting? Imagine this guy comes up and just posts his 2019 AAA slash line with his 2019 MiLB home run, RBI, and stolen base total? He’d be damn near a 7-win player! Fuck a Rookie of the Year, he’d be in consideration for the fuckin’ MVP. The thing about this is that it is kinda… not all that unrealistic. Okay, the 7-win player is a bit aggressive, but even for a rookie with a lot of swing and miss in his game and walk numbers that are not huge, a lot of projection systems just keep pumping out huge projections for Robert. PECOTA projected him as a 4.0 WAR player. Steamer projects him at 3.0. ZiPS has him at 2.5, but that’s with a 100 wRC+ projection as well. If he hits above league average, these projetion systems are saying his *floor* is a 3.0 win player. His ceiling is astronomical.

I am going on  a limb andthe record here – if Robert is a 4-win player or better in 2020, the White Sox are winning 90+ games. That may be a bit optimistic, but I truly believe it. This will be dependent on Eloy turning his late 2019 production into full season 2020 production, Moncada hitting the numbers I droolingly predicted he will last week, the pitching holding up, as well. Again, optimistic. But I believe these things can happen – hell, it happened for the 2015 and 2016 Cubs for the most part, if you use the proper parallels – and if they do, the Sox are gonna be fucking dangerous this year.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Firstly, I fucked up because I got vacation brain and thought that this post was supposed to go up today, but it was actually supposed to be yesterday. So, apologies, dear reader. For Robert, though, fucking up in 2020 is both unfortunately a realistic possibility and also somewhat easy to diagnose how it would go wrong. For all of his incredible traits as a hitter, Robert is just not patient. He’s aggressive almost to a fault, and that has subsequently led to some speculation on how he will translate to MLB as a rookie. The fact of the matter is that he really is just too good and too advanced as a hitter to have ever been challenged by minor league pitching.

The somewhat silver lining there is that we cannot be 100% sure if the low walk rate and hyper-aggressive approach were an all-out lack of patience or just the result of being better than any other hitter those MiLB pitchers would face. Essentially, was he just not willing to walk, or did he just decide that hitting a dinger was way more fun so he was just going to put the pitcher out of his misery? To that end, Robert has shown a good amount of discipline in spring training so far, but I also am not going to put a ton of stock in that beyond simply hoping that it will continue into the year. If he can’t show some discipline, I think we are looking at situation similar to what happened to Eloy early in 2019.

BAH GOD, THAT’S ROBERT’S MUSIC: Is it too much of a cop-out for me to say I think he splits the difference here? Normally I don’t buy into projection systems too much because, while I am a fan of using the advanced stats and analytics, I also am a “let them play the damn games” guy, but I do kinda like the Steamer projection for Robert in 2020 – .273/.318/.488 with a 111 wRC+. I am cautiously optimistic he can walk more than 5% to get that OBP up a bit, and think he will steal more than Steamer’s projection of 22 bases to bring the wRC+ up, but overall I think that is a solid prediction for Robert this year, so I will just go with that. More generally, I think he will be in the realm of .270/.330/.500, which really would be an amazing rookie season, in my opinion. Although don’t rule out the whole 7-win player thing either, cuz it could happen. Let’s hope!