When the White Sox sent Luis Robert back to Winston-Salem to start 2019, it’s unlikely they envisioned him tearing through the two weeks of the season the way he has. After 10 games through April 14, Robert is slashing an otherworldly .475/.512/1.025 and making the Carolina League his personal playground.
So what can we make of Robert so far? For starters, the power in his game is starting to blossom. After not hitting a single home run and carrying a slugging percentage of .360 across 50 games and three levels in 2018, the 21-year-old prospect has hit five already this year.
Although his current home run rate is unsustainable, Robert has hit with more authority so far in adding three doubles and two triples to his stat line. Robert has also continued to be a running threat with three stolen bases which is remarkable considering over half his hits have went for extra bases. In short, he is showing off all the tools that made him the top international signing back in 2017.
There are some red flags here as Robert is carrying a 21.9 percent strikeout rate (which, somehow, is lower than his career average) and a minuscule 2.4% walk rate. For a guy profiling as a potential leadoff hitter, these numbers will obviously need quite a bit of work. Still, I was encouraged by what I saw last weekend when Robert was in Frederick:
This was Robert leading off the game and he is aggressive right from the first pitch. Maybe too much so, which may explain the strikeout issues. He gets himself down in an 0-2 hole but I love what he does with two strikes. The approach was simple: His lower half stayed quiet and he effectively used his hands to foul off one pitch and then punched the fourth pitch of the game to left field for a single.
If you were going to make an instructional video on how to hit when behind in the count, Robert’s work here would be a good place to start. Mechanically speaking, his swing is smooth. There’s no overstride on the front side and his hands get directly to the hitting zone. I don’t see much, if any, wasted movement in his swing which is what allows him to be so simplified with two strikes.
I do think it is fair to wonder about his pitch recognition skills at this point but this is a kid with just 310 minor at-bats to his name so there is plenty of room for growth with the strikeouts. It is somewhat of a stretch to poke too many holes in his game with the numbers he is putting up right now but he is far from a finished product. That said, if he can stabilize his walk ratios to hover around the league average, we could be looking at a special talent roaming the Chicago outfield by late 2020.
Look for Robert to be in Birmingham sooner than expected, possibly before June 1, though that will largely depend on the team’s timeline for his development. For now, he will continue to terrorize Carolina League pitchers and show why he has potential to be a top 10 prospect by year’s end.