White Sox center fielder Luis Robert suffered a Grade 3 hip flexor strain — yes, a complete tear — that will take roughly 12-16 weeks to recover from. His 2021 season is most definitely in jeopardy.
This is a tough blow for the White Sox, as Robert is among the most valuable White Sox players in 2021. Entering the season, one of the largest reasons for skepticism was the belief that Robert could not get on base consistently. In 2020, Robert hit 11 home runs during the short season (on pace for 30 during a 162-game season). However, he ended on a cold streak, resulting in a .233 batting average, a .302 on-base percentage, and a 101 wRC+ for the season.
In 2021, however, Robert has much better numbers, including a .316 batting average and a .359 OBP. Considering Robert’s excellent 136 wRC+, strong defense in center field, and speed (93rd percentile, per Baseball Savant), Robert has already accumulated 1.1 fWAR. Excluding pitchers, Robert is the 20th-most valuable major leaguer based per FanGraphs WAR.
Where do the White Sox go from here? They are 15-12, which puts them on pace for a 90-72 record. While 90 wins would likely be enough to get them into the playoffs, there is still 83% of the regular season remaining. A majority, if not all, of the remaining 135 games will be played without Robert, and he is very difficult to replace.
Many White Sox fans, myself included, have wondered about Adam Engel’s prolonged IL status. Engel had a breakout year at the plate in 2020 (.295/.333/.477, 122 wRC+) but has been inactive in 2021. During Rick Hahn’s media conference announcing Robert’s injury, the GM said Engel (out with a hamstring strain) suffered a setback with his rehab, is “went back to square one,” and is still three weeks away from beginning a minor league rehab assignment.
And in response to a question during Hahn’s announcement regarding trade options for the quickly-outfielderless White Sox, he speculated on whether “the juice” would be worth “the squeeze.” So, in other words, ready yourselves for a number of Jake Lamb-Leury García-Adam Eaton outfields, friends.
The season is not lost, but the road to the postseason becomes significantly harder as a result of this news. Best of luck to Robert and Engel as they recover from these injuries, and may the baseball god finally have some mercy on us White Sox fans.