Flash forward: The city of Chicago gathers around Grant Park for the World Series parade. The brisk autumn air hits your face as you watch Luis Robert hoist the World Series trophy. Just two weeks later, he is once again celebrated with a Gold Glove, and once more, with an MVP.
Now let's come back down to 2019 through today. Or perhaps Tuesday, the home opener. Robert helped keep the White Sox in the win column with his speed, dangerous bat, and defensive prowess.
It seems as though everyone knew the White Sox had something special from Day 1. A Gold Glove winner in 2020, Rookie of the Month in August 2020, second place in the Rookie of the Year race, and a participant in the Futures Game in 2019.
But we have yet to see a full season of Robert. A shortened season from the COVID-19 pandemic, and suffering from a grade three right hip flexor injury that would sideline him for the majority of the 2021 season, would keep us from seeing just how good La Pantera can truly be.
Robert’s Rough Start
In 2020, Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook described Robert as having “the tools and skills to become a true face of the franchise.” On a 20 to 80 scale, they rated his power as a 70, meaning it’s a plus-plus.
This video can serve as proof.
However, Robert certainly had a few setbacks. In 2020, Robert had the worst SwStr% in baseball at 22.1%, a 32.2% strikeout rate, and an O-Swing rate of 43.1%. And the 2021 season would begin in a similar hot-and-cold fashion.
Upon his August 2021 return, Robert came back as a completely different player.
August 2021 - Present Day
Robert was suddenly putting up a 173 wRC+ over the rest of the season and dropped his SwStr% all the way down to 14.5%. With the guidance of hitting coach Frank Menechino, Robert worked on his stance and approach. He was hitting better, even at the breaking stuff he once struggled with.
Through four games, Robert sat first in the American League in stolen bases with four. He slashed .375/.412/.625 in his first 16 at-bats. He appears to have figured out his swing, how to keep Eloy out of the wall and/or nets by covering all of center field and a little bit of left, and just how much of a weapon his speed can be.
The No. 1 question, of course, is whether this is sustainable. Injuries happen, and we’re seeing them more after a shortened spring training. Ultimately, Robert’s goal is to stay healthy. If he can, Robert can certainly make a case for the AL (and perhaps World Series) MVP.
Robert’s MVP odds are currently at +1800, right behind Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. If the White Sox finish near the top of the AL (and in the case I’m making here, they will), Robert could easily take home MVP.