White Sox relief pitcher Evan Marshall was just running down the list of his hot-hitting teammates Wednesday. He praised Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez.
But when he got to Luis Robert, he really had something to say.
"Luis Robert is probably the MVP in the AL right now," Marshall said.
Robert's major league career is just 11 games old. And he's already an MVP candidate?
Certainly that's the kind of hype the five-tool threat brought into the shortened 2020 season. After he wowed minor league crowds last year, he was expected to be among the popular preseason picks to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He was the talk of "Summer Camp," with his teammates and coaches talking him up as a future superstar.
In his brief taste of big league action, Robert's already showing that hoping to be the Rookie of the Year might have been shooting a little low.
Through 11 games, Robert is hitting .364/.429/.568 with two home runs, three doubles, six RBIs, eight runs scored and an AL-leading four stolen bases.
The number that's really got people talking in certain circles is WAR. For the uninitiated, Wins Above Replacement puts a whole bunch of important baseball stuff in a blender — defense included — to quantify just how valuable players are compared to an average replacement player. Well, Robert leads the American League in that metric, according to the folks at Fangraphs. He's been worth 1.0 WAR through 11 games, better than every player in baseball besides San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, who has been worth 1.1 WAR. Over at Baseball-Reference (the stat varies depending on who's calculating it), Robert ranks sixth in baseball and third among American League position players, worth 0.9 WAR.
In other words, Marshall's claim isn't quite the biased teammate praise it might seem at first blush. Robert is having as good a season as anyone, albeit in a small sample size.
While other young stars in the making have taken their time to adjust to the major leagues upon their arrival on the White Sox big league roster, Robert seems to be bypassing that step.
"I mean, he just turned 23 on Monday. He’s a hell of a lot more mature than I was at 23," general manager Rick Hahn said of Robert on Wednesday. "It’s just been really fun to watch just how seamlessly he seemingly made this transition. And not just the transition to big leaguer, but even at-bat to at-bat in terms of adjustments that he makes almost on the fly and instinctually, it’s really impressive.
"Anyone can see the athleticism. Anyone can see the tools. ... Until you are around him and you understand the work ethic and the focus and the ability to block out the hype or the expectations, it’s hard to really appreciate the makeup and the character. We are all seeing it first hand.
"Whether it’s the money or the prospect rankings or whatever, people are very excited to see this player this year. And he’s just made it seem like he’s been able to block all that out and focus on his performance and make adjustments against major league pitching on the fly. It has been fun to watch."
If Robert can keep this up, maybe it will really fun for the White Sox to see the 23-year-old rookie be the franchise's first AL MVP since Frank Thomas in 1994.