The White Sox are the most intriguing team in the American League Central, if not the entire league. Rebuild architect Rick Hahn has done such a nice job this offseason it seems as if he’s ready for a promotion to city planner.
There’s a list of players acquired via free agency or trade, but it’s possible that the biggest added impact for 2020 may be a player who had already been in the organization.
From the day he was signed, Robert was somewhat of an enigma. There wasn’t much video for eager fans to devour. He was a mythical leviathan comprised of glowing scouting reports held together by tools. Countless tools.
The breakout party was slated to be in 2018, but there were thumb injuries. And 50 games without a home run. But the glistening scouting reports continued unabated.
2019 equated to a giant “I told you so” on behalf of all of the scouts. Over three levels:
But how will that translate in the majors?
Luckily we have projection systems to help us out a little. A little over a month ago, the ZiPS projections debuted over at Fangraphs. For those unfamiliar with ZiPS, read the explanation here:
Below is Luis Robert’s 2020 projection, according to ZiPS:
I find the business of player projections to be fascinating stuff, and I had some questions about how one would even project someone with the unique background and résumé of Luis Robert. So I reached out to Dan Szymborski, who developed the ZiPS system and asked a few questions.
What I wanted to know was does the fact that Robert was split between three levels in 2019 complicate matters, and how about his overall small sample of minor league games stateside? And would he be grouped with other players who came to the United States via the Cuban League?
“The split doesn't really complicate the projection, the general problem is the shorter resume," Szymborski said. "The main problem is the accuracy, the less data, the larger the error bars are. Because Robert is very young, the windows ZiPS looks at is smaller, so the Cuban stats aren't playing a role at this point. ZiPS doesn't group comparables by origin or level - using translations puts everyone on the same level, so he'll be compared to both major and minor leaguers of roughly the same estimated baseline expectation.”
Definitely give Dan a follow - @DSzymborski – he’s one of the better baseball follows around not only for his analysis, but also for his MLB players/WWE video game mashup tweets:
Now about that projection: 20+ homers and 20+ steals and making an MLB debut in the same season is rare. Only three players have done it.
1977 Mitchell Page (A’s) – 21 HR, 42 SB
1987 Ellis Burks (Red Sox) – 20 HR, 27 SB
1995 Marty Cordova (Twins) – 24 HR, 20 SB
And of those players listed, only Burks did it in his age 22 season. The other two did it at age 25.
As Robert enters his age 22 season, he would be only the second player in White Sox history to hit 20 or more at that age – after Eloy Jiménez who hit 31 at age 22 last season.
Of course, the overall projection (.265/.309/.455) isn’t nearly as gaudy as his minor league numbers, but that is to be expected. Major League Baseball is a lot harder than the minors. Robert’s profile (not many walks, plenty of strikeouts) will lead to a few bumps along the road. But that aside, Robert is a rare talent - especially at a premium position – and will bring plenty of excitement and perhaps a load of Rookie of the Year votes to the South Side in 2020.