LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — So it sounds like this Luis Robert guy is pretty, pretty, pretty good.
The White Sox added another huge piece to their rebuilding effort last summer by signing the Cuban outfielder and mentally penciling him into the starting center fielder’s spot years down the road. While the descriptions of the kid — and the big money he received as an international free agent — were enough to make White Sox fans excited, actual knowledge on him for the non-scouts among us was scarce given that he played in a foreign country.
But the White Sox have had Robert in the system for months now, and manager Rick Renteria has seen him in person playing in the Dominican League. And listening to Renteria describe his future outfielder, it sounds like the South Side is in for a special player.
“I saw Robert,” Renteria said during his Tuesday afternoon press media session at the Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, “he’s a pretty impressive specimen. Listen, this kid can fly. I saw him run down to first I think it was like 3.56 after a full swing on a ground ball. He ran down a ball in center, right-center field effortlessly. He hit a ball against the wind and a gust into center, left-center field that I thought had no chance and it ended up going over the trees.”
That right there is enough to make rebuild-loving White Sox fans’ ears perk up.
Like much of the White Sox recently acquired minor league talent, there’s still plenty of development still to come for Robert. The reason the White Sox have thus far been so quiet during the Winter Meetings is because they seem to have their sights on 2018 (or at least the beginning of it) as a developmental season. General manager Rick Hahn said this week that patience needs to be exercised, not just by the fan base but by the organization itself.
But Robert is one of the younger names on the team’s list of highly touted prospects. He was just 19 years old when the White Sox signed him in May. He’s 20 now. But he’s yet to play minor league baseball in the U.S., and while he’s considered a special talent, he likely won’t arrive in the big leagues alongside the other future stars of the rebuild like Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez.
Of course, that’s been the plan all along. But just because Robert is still a couple years away, that won’t stop White Sox fans from salivating over scouting reports like the one Renteria brought back from the Dominican Republic.
“I was there for four games, just watching, that they played in their instruction league. Watching his work,” Renteria said. “He’s obviously a little bit more mature. He’s, from what I can gather, he’s quiet, very attentive to everything that you’re conversing about. Has a way of being and being a part of the rest of the group that were there.
“I think that for him right now it’s just a matter of getting himself to the States, starting to play against other competition, start to get a feel for what’s going on here, the level of play that he’s going to be hopefully participating in this coming summer, and see where he can chip away at what he needs to improve upon. He’s still a young, very young player. I’m sure there are a lot of aspects of his game that he’s going to have to improve upon.
“So once he gets here we’ll see and decipher, and I’m sure we’ll have a plan as to how we want to check off certain boxes for him and what he needs to do to continue to move forward.”
Hahn said that he looks forward to seeing Robert in big league camp, and that will give the White Sox a chance to see what they have coming. But they know already what they have, and they’re excited about Robert’s present and future with the organization.
“We have been thrilled with him,” Hahn said. “If you follow him on Instagram, he has a great personality and gets along well with all his teammates. He works extremely hard. You would not know from walking around our Dominican complex the size of the bonus he got in terms of how he carries himself and how he treats others. He has fit in great and look forward to seeing him come big league camp.”