Luis Robert is officially a member of the White Sox organization.
Introduced with much fanfare during a Saturday press conference, Robert strolled out to the pitcher's mound at Gauranteed Rate Field for a ceremonial first pitch wearing a White Sox hat and jersey prior to the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.
But amid the hype and the excitement for White Sox fans, patience will be required. Robert is still a ways away from the big leagues, with general manager Rick Hahn saying Saturday that the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder will begin his journey through the organization in the Dominican Republic with the White Sox team in the Dominican Summer League.
Hahn made a point of mentioning that Robert hasn't played in a baseball game since last summer, meaning it's been nearly a year since the White Sox newest highly touted prospect has taken the field.
“It should be noted he has not played in a game since last July. He’s been preparing for workouts over the last several months. So right now, from Chicago, he’s going to return to the Dominican and begin his development there," Hahn said. "He will prepare to join our Dominican Summer League team in the coming weeks and then we will get all the visas in place and take things from there. His initial assignment will be back to the Dominican as he prepares to work his way through the White Sox organization.
"We’re going to have to be patient with this because he hasn’t played in almost a year now. He has been training now quite frankly more to be a workout warrior than an everyday baseball player. We’re gonna take our time at our complex, get him back playing games regularly and then get him out there. But the fact that he hasn’t played in competition for 11 months now is going to be a factor in how quickly we move him along in '17."
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Scouting reports that have compared Robert to the likes of Adam Jones and Lorenzo Cain, plus the gaudy numbers he posted in the Cuban National Series including a .401 batting average in 53 games during the 2016 season, have generated plenty of buzz. Robert is already one of the White Sox top prospects and one of the higher-rated prospects in baseball on his first day as a pro.
But as Hahn mentioned Saturday, there's still plenty of development for Robert before he's ready for the majors.
"There’s still a fair amount of development for this player," Hahn said. "This will take some time here. But with his raw set of materials and what he’s accomplished in international competition and at the highest league in Cuba at a young age, helps reinforce how you project this player to develop."
Even before Robert's signing, it was obvious Hahn and the White Sox were playing the long game, with top prospects like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech allowed plenty of time before their eventual summons to the big leagues. Robert, again just 19 years old, will take some time, too. But the White Sox are confident it will all pay off.
"Luis Robert is going to be the player that his tools allow him to become and his health and development pace dictates," Hahn said. "We do think he has the potential to be a perennial impact player in the middle of our diamond and lineup for years to come. That’s an important piece to be able to add to the organization."