I didn’t want to write up Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox because I’m a scared little boy named Marcus (real name is Son) who didn’t want to be stranded on an island by himself. I kid. I don’t know how I feel about him to be honest. My gut is yelling that he’s overpriced, but so many of my Razzball brethren are super high on him (Grey and Rudy recently drafted him in the 60s and Donkey Teeth set the minimum pick on him I believe in TGFBI). Let’s dig in and see if I should take out my gut with a baseball bat.
Robert is 22 years old, 6′ 3″, 205 pounds, and bats from the right side of the plate. He was the consensus #1 international prospect in 2016. In 2017, the White Sox signed him for just over $26 million. He’s a five-tool player who’s been compared to Vladimir Guerrero. The athleticism is off the charts, the bat speed is quick, and the power is prodigious. Oh, I forgot about the speed. He posted a sub-6.3 second 60-yard dash. For perspective, 6.7-6.9 is average. Billy Hamilton ran it in 6.2 seconds.
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I get it. Robert is as alluring a prospect as there is in the game.
Looking at the minor league numbers, the walk rate has been in the 5% range while the strikeout rate has been a manageable 22-24%. He hit for average and power. In 223 plate appearances in Triple-A, Robert had a slash of .297/.341/.634 with 16 homers, 7 stolen bases, a .324 BABIP, and .337 ISO. He pulled the ball 42% and lifted the ball in the air 49% of the time, which could be good for home runs, but could affect his batting average and BABIP. With his speed, a GB/FB rate over 0.5 is probably ideal. I wish minor league plate discipline numbers were available, as I’m curious at the swinging strike rate, contact rates, and chase rates.
With the numbers that I have, my gut is in trouble. Yet, it still yearns out to me.
What makes me most weary about Robert is that he’s never faced major league pitching. There’s going to be an adjustment period. His weaknesses are going to get exposed. How will he react? How will he adjust? Do we even know what his weaknesses are? These are unknown variables, yet he’s being drafted as if those Triple-A numbers can be penciled in for his MLB stats. Byron Buxton, Javier Baez, and fellow teammate Yoan Moncada all struggled their first time in the bigs. Remember Vlad Guerrero Jr. last season, being drafted on average with the 51st pick and a high of 17? He wasn’t awful, but fell well short of the expectations. Those are but a few, with the list much, much longer. On the flip side, there have been examples of players doing well right from the get go. Ronald Acuna obviously stands out. Another White Sox (Sock?), Eloy Jimenez, did just fine last season so it’s within the range of outcomes that Robert could have a great season. I’m not willing to pay the draft day price, though, of a 50 or 60 overall pick.
Steamer has Robert projected for a .269/.313/.471 line with 25 homers, 75 runs, 78 RBI, and 25 stolen bases with a 4.6% walk rate, 26.8% strikeout rate, .202 ISO, and .333 BABIP. Guess who projects almost identical to that? Our good friend, Byron Buxton, who Steamer has down for .262/.318/.462 and 19 homers, 72 runs, 71 RBI, and 23 stolen bases with a 6.8% walk rate, 25.3% strikeout rate, .200 ISO, and .323 BABIP. Buxton is being drafted as the 155th overall player, almost 100 picks after Robert.
That’s not all though. With all the euphoria regarding Robert, there’s been little talk about the floor. With his propensity for strikeouts, what if he hits .250 or lower, the power is middling at 25 homers and he doesn’t steal, because often your players don’t? Buxton batted .209 with a 31.9% strikeout rate his first time in the bigs. Moncada hit .231 with a 32% strikeout rate. Baez hit .169 with a 41.5% strikeout rate.
Robert is also likely to be hitting 8th in the batting order.
I feel like such a party pooper, but it is what it is. I get the allure because the ceiling is so high and, even if he struggles, a 20/20 season is likely. Speed plays and there are only 11 players projected to go 20/20 by Steamer for this upcoming season. I just have a difficult time paying top dollar price for a player that could easily hit the floor projections, especially when there’s a player sitting down in the doldrums who has just as much pedigree, talent, and has been through the wringer already.
Robert is a TREASURE, but considering the levels to where he’s been elevated to in drafts, he’s a TRASH for me.
I hated writing this post and will probably get so much shit for it, but at least I can stop listening to my gut one way or another.