Luis Robert signed the largest contract for a player without a Major League at bat. The White Sox saw enough of him in the minors that they extended him with a 6 year $50 million pact. With options that could pay close to $100 million. The Pale Hose and the baseball world had big expectations heading into 2020. Robert underwhelmed slightly. He certainly flashed the leather and took home the Gold Glove award in center. This is truly impressive for a freshman. Robert also showed glimpses of the thunder that lives in his bat but overall swung and missed too much.
Even in falling short of the lofty expectations few were panicking. The White Sox made some roster changes and walked into 2021 with expectations of their own for the first time in a while. This perhaps took some of the pressure off of Robert. He got off to a decent start average wise in April but the issues with consistent and thus consistently hard contact seemed to follow him into 2021.
As per Luke Hooper of FanGraphs his 22.1% Swinging Strike percentage in 2020 was the highest in baseball. In other words, Robert was swinging through too many good pitches. His 32.2% strike out although not league pacing is likely too high to sustain above average production. The positive overall is that his problems appear easy enough to diagnose and by extension fix.
Potential disaster struck in early May. Robert pulled up lame running to first and would be diagnosed with a torn hip flexor. The early prognosis had many expecting his season was over. There was also concern over long term effects of a core injury for a player relying on athleticism. Robert rehabbed diligently and also worked with coach and former MLB’er Frank Menechino on his swing and miss deficiencies.
Robert returned well ahead of most projections near the end of August. Any concerns over lingering effects from the injury were quickly put to bed. The time away was obviously put to good use. The work with Menechino paid off and he saw huge improvements in the flaws previously mentioned. You can refer to the Fangraphs article for a full break down of his analytical improvements.
Upon his return Robert put up a 173WRC+. As per the definition above, this attempts to weight specific hitting outcomes differently and provide a gauge in relation to the average MLB’er. Robert by this metric was 73% better than the average MLB’er down the stretch. 2021 could’ve been a lost season for the youngster from Ciego de Avila. Instead when faced with adversity he rose to the occasion and showed much of what has scouts and pundits thinking he is the future face of baseball at least on the South Side of Chicago.