The White Sox landed another huge piece for their rebuild over the weekend when they agreed to terms with Cuban outfielder Luis Robert.
The 19-year-old was reportedly down to the White Sox and the Cardinals as his teams of choice. The Sox pitched Robert on their rich Cuban heritage, with some help from manager Rick Renteria, and fellow Cuban players Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada.
It was a big get for the Sox, and here is exactly what it means.
First of all the Sox add a player that should land on the next round of top-100 prospect rankings. In fact, many believe that Robert will debut as a top-50 prospect.
Add that to their current group which includes the number one overall prospect, the aforementioned Moncada, the number three prospect according to MLB.com Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech (#30), Reynaldo Lopez (#38), Carson Fulmer (#58), and Zach Collins (#80).
Suddenly the White Sox farm system is one of, if not the best in baseball, with likely seven top-100 prospects and maybe as many as five in the top-50.
In Robert, they are also getting a player that fills a need position wise. Outfield is currently a somewhat thin position throughout the organization.
Their top-ranked prospect is Luis Alexander Basabe, who came over with Kopech and Moncada in the Chris Sale trade. He is listed as the ninth best prospect currently, and is off to a rough start at high-A Winston Salem.
Robert, like most top outfield prospects, currently projects as a centerfielder.
That is certainly a position of need for the Sox, but according to some, he should hit well enough to move to a corner spot as well. He already has experience in left field in Cuba. Check out the above link for a thorough breakdown of Robert’s career by Baseball America’s Ben Badler. It also includes some nice video clips as well.
Most expect Robert to start out at single-A, either low or high, when he joins the Sox organization. He will still be young for that level, but considering his experience in Cuba, it shouldn’t be a big leap up for him.
That probably puts him on track for a 2019 or 2020 arrival. It really depends on how well he does early on. If he just tears up single-A pitching I expect the Sox will move him up to Birmingham to give him a better challenge.
If he struggles in A-ball and is striking out a lot, he will need to be brought along slower.
Either way, there is no need to rush him at this point.
The downside of paying up to sign Robert is the Sox basically have to wait two years to sign anyone significant on the international market. Because they spent on Robert and went over their total allotment, they are in the penalty during the next two signing periods and can’t spend more than $300,000 on any single player.
The price may well be worth it for Robert though, especially considering he is ahead of where most international amateurs are when they sign.
The bottom line for the Sox is that they added another major piece that they hope will be a big part of the team in the future when it comes time to compete. Since the start of the last off-season, the Sox have added Moncada, Kopech, Giolito, Robert, Lopez, Basabe, and pitcher Dane Dunning.
Oh, and the MLB draft is coming up in a few weeks too, where the Sox have the 11th pick. In a very short time Rick Hahn has done an incredible job stocking the system with talent, and there is still more on the way.
The future looks bright, and landing Robert could be looked at as one of the key moves if all this talent does come to fruition on the South Side.