2018 SSS Top Prospect rank: 3
SSS rank among all center fielders in the system: 1
The White Sox won a bidding war with the St. Louis Cardinals for the services of this standout Cuban outfield prospecton May 27, 2017. The contract certainly wasn’t cheap — the White Sox paid Robert a $26 million bonus, the second-highest ever given to an amateur, a matching amount as a penalty for exceeding their bonus pool to land him, and the inability to spend more than $300,000 for any international prospect for the next two years.
But the promise made it all worthwhile: Robert, a five-tool athlete, hit .401/.526/.687 with 12 doubles, two triples, 12 homers, 40 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 38 walks (16.4%) and 30 strikeouts (12.9%) as an 18-year-old in Cuba’s top league in 2016.
Robert had a great rookie season with the DSL White Sox in 2017, as he played in the Dominican for tax reasons. In between minor knee and ankle injuries, he was limited to 84 at-bats but slashed .310/.491/.536 with eight doubles, one triple, three homers, 14 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, 22 walks (18.80%), and 23 strikeouts (19.66%).
In 2018, with the AZL Sox, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, Robert slashed a combined .269/.333/.360 in 186 at-bats with 11 doubles, three triples, no homers, 17 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 12 walks (5.77%) and 52 strikeouts (25%). It’s difficult to assess those numbers, because Robert dealt with damaged ligaments in his left thumb for much of the season. However, signs of things to come emerged in Robert’s Arizona Fall League stint, which while still touched with injury resulted in a killer line for Robert: .324/.367/.432 with two homers and 10 RBIs and 5-of-5 stolen bases in 18 games. Sprinkled throughout the fall were moments of five-tool daring and incredible defense — in short, answering the dreams of Sox fans hoping for a future superstar.
See, while it’s easy to be disappointed that injuries have limited Robert’s playing time and results with the White Sox, all his tools, with the possible exception of hitting, rank above average. His speed is off the charts, as he’s posted sub-6.3 second 60-yard dashes. He is a terrific center fielder due in large part to his range, and has the arm to play right field if needed.
With the White Sox cautious about hitting Robert with too much, he somewhat surprisingly returned to Winston-Salem to begin 2019 and ATE IT ALIVE (.453/.512/.920) in 19 games before his promotion to Birmingham. He was out a precautionary week this season due to a minor hand injury and did start relatively “slowly” in Double-A, but his overall numbers for his first 45 games of his age-21 season (yeah, Robert is almost three years younger than Southern League average) are quite tidy: .371/.426/.691 with 10 homers, 38 RBIs and 16-for-24 steals. A promotion to Charlotte at this some point in 2019 is not only possible, but expected. South Side time in 2020, at age 23, is no pipe dream.
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