He is 20 years old, and his professional experience consists of just 28 games in the Dominican Summer League.
Still, center fielder Luis Robert is making a large blip on Chicago’s radar.
“He’s a pretty impressive specimen,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said.
Renteria got a firsthand look at Robert in November, watching the 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthanded hitter play four games in Dominican instructional league.
“This kid can fly,” Renteria said. “I saw him run down to first base. I think it was like 3.56 (seconds) after a full swing on a ground ball. He ran down a ball in right-center field, effortlessly. He hit a ball against the wind to left-center field that I thought had no chance, and it ended up going over the trees.
“We have a lot of young men in the organization right now who are starting to grow up and come into their own both physically and emotionally. We’re moving in the right direction.”
The White Sox are rebuilding, and most of the quality young talent they’ve accumulated over the past year and a half has come through trades and the draft. Robert is the exception.
The White Sox signed Robert out of Cuba in May with a $26 million bonus. The signing far exceeded Chicago’s international bonus pool, triggering a penalty that disallows Chicago from signing a player for more than $300,000 in either of the 2017 or 2018 classes.
Debuting in the DSL on June 12, Robert went on to hit .310/.491/.536 with three home runs and 12 stolen bases. He was slowed by knee and ankle injuries during his first pro season, which he spent outside the U.S. for tax purposes.
Robert will open 2018 at a Class A affiliate after attending big league camp.
“It wouldn’t shock me if he pushed up a level or two depending on where he starts the 2018 season,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “He has a very advanced approach at the plate, he’s very physically gifted and it would not surprise me if he wound up moving on the quicker path.
“That said, this will be the first time he’s in the States full time, the first time he’s playing baseball that regularly, the first time he has to adapt to the new culture, food and language. So we’re going to give him the space he needs—regardless of what level he’s at—to have his growing pains, if that’s what happens.”