Luis Robert

Michael Kopech, Luis Robert among early betting favorites for AL Rookie of the Year

Michael Kopech, Luis Robert among early betting favorites for AL Rookie of the Year

The White Sox are stocked with young talent so it’s not surprising they have some of the early favorites for American League Rookie of the Year.

Early odds from sportsbooks have Michael Kopech as a somewhat surprising overall favorite at 3-to-1. Kopech could be seen as one of the more sure things in the field given he has actually reached the majors and had decent success in 2018 before pitching injured in his final start before Tommy John surgery.

However, seven of the last eight AL Rookie of the Year winners have been position players. It’s six of eight going to hitters in the NL.

On top of that, Kopech is not likely to start the season on the big league roster as the White Sox ease him back from the injury. Kopech will also be on an innings limit throughout the year. The last pitcher to win AL Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer in 2016 with the Detroit Tigers, logged 159 innings and a 3.06 ERA. Kopech will almost certainly come short of that many innings, which will make it tough for his resume to stand out.

Speaking of the Tigers, 2018 No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize is second in the odds at 9-to-2. He is followed by another White Sox prospect, Luis Robert.

Robert is 5-to-1 and might be a better bet than Kopech. For one, he will almost certainly be on the Opening Day roster and starting consistently in centerfield. In the era of a number of prospects being kept down for service time reasons, Robert will have a head start on much of the field. His well-rounded game of speed, power and good defense should make it easy for him to be valuable even if he struggles at times at the plate.

The rest of the favorites are a who’s who of the best prospects in the AL. Oakland’s Jesus Luzardo is 10-to-1 after getting a brief stint in the majors last year. You can even bet on uber prospect Wander Franco (20-to-1) despite the 19-year-old not even playing above A ball yet.

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal is currently 33-to-1.

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White Sox teammates buying into the Luis Robert hype: 'The sky's the limit'

White Sox teammates buying into the Luis Robert hype: 'The sky's the limit'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s early in spring training, but so far White Sox rookie Luis Robert is the unofficial leader of the Cactus League in "oohs" and "ahs" coming from these Arizona crowds.

Those same sounds will be amplified tenfold in a few weeks, when the 22-year-old makes his major league debut on Opening Day.

Whether it’s his bat, his glove or his speed around the bases, Robert has been a sight to see.

“He’s a special player. I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do on a baseball field,” White Sox catcher James McCann said. “You hear the label of a five-tool player, but you don’t hear it thrown around very often. I have a hard time saying that he’s not a five-tool player.”

Eloy Jimenez continues to say that Robert will be the next Mike Trout, only the best player on the planet. It’s the highest of praise for any young prospect, especially since Robert has yet to play a single game in the majors.

But Jimenez is unwavering in his belief that Robert can reach such meteoric heights.

“Because he’s got five tools, the effort he brings every single day, that’s why I have the confidence to say that,” Jimenez said about the Trout comparison.

What is Robert capable of in 2020?

As much as White Sox coaches want to pump the brakes on the Robert hype, his teammates can’t help themselves.

“I think he can win Rookie of the Year,” infielder Danny Mendick said. “I’m looking at him right now. He’s a stud. He hit that ball (for a home run on Saturday). It was a rocket.”

McCann had a perfect angle on that home run. He was standing on deck when Robert crushed the ball over the left field fence off Texas Rangers pitcher Juan Nicasio.

“He’s got unbelievable bat speed. When he connects, the ball jumps. It’s special,” McCann said. “He’s the kind of hitter that when you’re at home and you’re scrolling through the TV and he’s coming up to bat, you stop and you watch because something special is going to happen.

“I don’t like to put labels on guys, but I think the sky’s the limit.”

Yet despite such glowing words from his teammates, be prepared for this next sentence: Luis Robert will struggle in 2020. At least, if he’s a human being he will.

Even Jimenez believes that. He knows from experience. Last season, the Kansas City Royals spotted a weakness with Jimenez on Opening Day, noticing how he had the propensity to chase balls out of the strike zone. So for the first two months of the year, every team followed that same playbook against Jimenez until he started to lay off of them.

Robert might end up with a similar scouting report when he makes his debut — against those same Royals.

“Every young guy in the league has that problem, except for (New York Mets first baseman) Pete Alonso. He was really good, but what can I say?” Jimenez said. “The first time in the majors, they’re going to try to get him to chase pitches in the dirt. I think (Robert) is going to have a little bit of trouble with that for the first month, maybe because of the cold weather. He’s going to try to do a little too much, but he’s going to be OK.”

The key for Robert will be making adjustments, something Mendick witnessed first-hand last season.

“I’ve seen him, and he makes adjustments quick,” said Mendick, who played with Robert at Triple-A Charlotte in July and August. “You look at a lot of young guys, and they let things get to them. You let an at-bat dictate how the rest of the day goes. That’s the one thing I see in him. He just goes out there and it looks like every at-bat, he’s just worried about that pitch, and that’s what makes him so successful.

"All of a sudden you’re 0-for-3 with three Ks. He doesn’t care. He gets up there in the fourth at-bat, and he hits an absolute rocket. He can make an adjustment quickly.”

Robert has been working with new White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino. They’re no strangers to each other. Menechino was Robert’s hitting coach last season in Charlotte.

He’s keeping things simple with Robert.

“He hunts the fastball. He’s going to hunt the fastball on the big part of the plate and react to bad breaking balls, react to bad sliders, curveballs, changeups that are up (in the zone),” Menechino said. “We’re just working on controlling the strike zone and swinging at pitches we’re looking for. He’s done a good job laying off some balls that are out of the strike zone, and he’s doing a really good job of getting the fastball that he wants and putting the barrel on them.”

What kind of hitter will Robert be right out of the gate?

“I don’t know,” Menechino said. “We’ll see what teams do to him. We’ll see how he adjusts to them, so right now we don’t know. In spring training, no one pitches you like they do in spring training.”

But even as Menechino downplays the Robert hype, he knows what this baseball specimen is capable of.

“I’ve seen him hit balls with one hand out of the park.”

In terms of fielding, Robert has the wheels to cover a ton of ground in center field. With Jimenez on one side of him and Nomar Mazara on the other, the White Sox need him to be aggressive.

No need to worry about that.

“He tries to catch every single ball,” Jimenez said with a laugh. “That is good. Also, he’s got to command in the outfield. He takes charge. That’s what you want to see when you have center fielder like that.”

The same goes with infielders like Mendick who have to venture into the shallow outfield grass for lazy pop flies. Robert wants to flag down those, as well.

“When we do pop fly communication (drills), he always wants to catch the ball. He’s always calling off left fielders, right fielders,” Mendick said. “The motive to go catch everything is really what makes him an elite outfielder. Sometimes you’ll see guys be timid and pull off. He’ll scream and say, 'I got it,' and he’ll go get it. He doesn’t care if sometimes he’ll look like a fool doing it.

"For being young, that’s a quality you want to have in a guy, because you know when you get older, it’s just going to come easier.”

If you’re looking for a stat projection for Robert in 2020, who really knows?

“We’re all going to find out," Menechino said. "He’s being challenged right now. We’ll find out how he does.”

Or if you’re Jimenez, you know exactly what Robert will do this season.

“You’re going to see,” Jimenez said confidently. “Wait for it. Just wait.”

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Luis Robert offers a glimpse of his ability in hot start to spring training

Luis Robert offers a glimpse of his ability in hot start to spring training

The Luis Robert Show hasn’t taken stage at Guaranteed Rate Field just yet but that day is only weeks away.

Until then, the 22-year-old Cuban is giving fans a glimpse of his talent in spring training. Robert blasted his first home run of this year’s Cactus League on Saturday.

He also has a triple, double and single in 10 spring at-bats. Robert is hitting .400/.455/1.000. Yes, it’s just 11 plate appearances and, yes, it’s just spring training, but those are impressive numbers.

Robert’s hot start fueled Eloy Jimenez to talk him up as the next Mike Trout, which is something he has said before.

“You will see,” Jimenez told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s really good. He’s been working really hard. Like I’ve said before, he’s going to be the next Mike Trout.”

Jimenez will have high expectations of his own in 2020 after hitting 31 home runs in 122 games as a rookie. Jimenez also hit his first home run of the spring on Saturday.

Robert isn’t the only White Sox hitter doing well this spring without the benefit of big league experience. Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft, homered on Friday. He is 3-for-7 with two extra base hits, three walks and no strikeouts. Yermin Mercedes, the 27-year-old catcher with huge power, has two home runs and a 1.611 OPS.

RELATED: Rick Renteria: Kopech looking far more advanced than people might think

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