When he debuted this season, Luis Robert took the baseball world by storm and won American League Rookie of the Month honors in August, his first full month in the major leagues.
But September has been a completely different story.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, Robert is mired in a 6-for-60 slump, hitting just .100 on the month with one homer and six RBIs. He’s primarily been hitting lower in the lineup, seventh in most cases, and first-ballot Hall of Famer Frank Thomas has seen enough of that.
On Monday’s edition of "White Sox Pregame Live," the Big Hurt sounded off, suggesting it was time for a change.
"I’m just a big fan of this kid, and I’ve seen talent in this league for a long time," he said. "We’re wasting a superstar right now. That’s what we’re doing.
"I spent 20 years in baseball, at a high level. This guy is too good to be stuck in the 7-hole with no protection in the lineup. This guy proved to us he can be a superstar right off the bat. He’s got 11 home runs and 30 RBIs, but that happened a month ago. And now he’s stuck, sitting in the 7-hole, with no protection, slider after slider after slider after slider. You’re not going to do anything offensively."
The majority of Robert's at-bats this season have come in the No. 7 spot, and prior to the month of September, he had a .288 batting average there. He's hit seven of his 11 home runs this season from the 7-hole. On the season, Robert is hitting just .219 in 105 plate appearances as the No. 7 hitter. That includes 32 at-bats in his ugly month of September.
But Robert has batted elsewhere during his rookie season, filling in for the then-injured Tim Anderson as the White Sox leadoff man early on in the campaign. He hit .357 in those seven games.
"This guy his whole life has hit second or third,” Thomas said Monday. "Now he’s batting seventh on this team.
"We know what he can do. He’s got the legs. He’s got the power. He’s a five-tool superstar. But right now, we’re not getting any offense because he’s in his own head because he knows he’s not going to get anything to hit over the plate. And once he gets it, he misses it because he’s not expecting it."
Prior to Monday night's series-opener in Cleveland, Robert was 0-for-his-last-18 with eight strikeouts.
"We’ve already paid the guy, what, $80 million? You want this guy to shine," Thomas continued.
"You got to get him up in the middle of the lineup, get his confidence going because all great hitters, if you have no confidence, you become what he is right now, looking for two pitches, with one ball."
Where would Robert bat if Thomas was writing out the White Sox lineup?
Batting in between the White Sox two MVP candidates, Tim Anderson and José Abreu, would give Robert protection that Thomas is talking about. That would require dropping veteran Yasmani Grandal lower in the lineup. Grandal entered Monday’s game hitting .234 with a .358 on-base percentage.
Whatever the solution, Thomas believes using this week would benefit Robert and the White Sox as they head into their first postseason in 12 years.
"I’m not saying leave him there," he said. "I’m saying get his confidence back up. We need this guy very positive going into the playoffs if you want to win this thing. Batting right now in the 7-hole, nothing is going to happen right now.
"But, right now the guy is struggling mentally. It’s not his physical ability. Mentally right now. He’s looking for two pitches in the same at-bat in every pitch."