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Have We Talked About Luis Robert Yet? Because He Hit 2 More Dingers Last Night

So I think I’ve mentioned his name a time or two but in case you’re not aware, Luis Robert is the next White Sox super prospect in their pipeline and right now he’s on an otherworldly tear in AAA.  If you don’t believe me, here are his stats across HiA, AA and AAA thus far in 2019:

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and, as many people predicted, he’s decimating AAA especially:

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Absolute freak numbers.  If he continues this pace, which he might just do because of how hitter friendly the International League is, Hahn is going to be in a realllllly tough spot in a month or so.  It’s kinda a good problem for him to have as his marquis international signing is tearing the cover off the ball, but he’s also said time and time again that good prospects “force the issue” with respect to promotions.  If Robert is slashing .400./.450/.900 in a month after he’s accrued about 150 AAA plate appearances, he will undoubtedly have forced the issue on a promotion to The Show.

But the front office will also have to balance whether or not they want Robert to burn a year of control in their last non-compete year or reward him with a Juan Soto path to the show in one MiLB season.  At this point it’s basically the only question with regards to Robert at this point: do they burn that 7th year of control or do they promote him once they’ve deemed he’s forced their hand and let him get his feet wet ASAP?  It’s a major catch 22 situation for them.

I typically would have guessed that they’d opt for the former, but they promoted him to AAA pretty freaking quickly this summer.  A lot quicker than most fans even would have guessed.  If they held him in Birmingham until August they’d have a lot easier time making the “he still needs AAA at bats” excuse come April next year.  At this point I’m not sure they’ll have that benefit of the doubt.

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Credit to them though – they promoted him to AAA knowing this could very well be the sticky situation they’d find themselves in.

But let’s talk about Luis Robert the player, not Luis Robert the walking, breathing statistic.  I’ve watched a good amount of his games this summer because I’m a psychopath that pays to watch his games online.  I want to preface this by saying I LOVE him as a player.  He has better tools than just about anyone in baseball.  Freak of nature physically.  True 5 tool talent.  But that doesn’t mean he’s close to being a complete player in spite of what he’s doing against MiLB pitching.  What I want to do here is attempt to break down an area I think he needs to improve in order for him to eventually be the best Luis Robert he can be.

Here are 4 Robert bombs over the last week or so:

a perfect swing and approach.  The pitcher was attacking him low and away (we’ll get to this in a minute) and missed his spot middle/in.  Robert turned on this ball.  There is not one single thing to nit pick about this what just happened here.

Then we get to the next three:

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Now all three of these obviously resulted in a home run.  I hate to be that asshole that nitpicks a dinger, but I’m going to be an asshole that nitpicks a dinger right now, because I truly believe there is a flaw in his approach on each one of them.  Let’s talk about both the good and bad.

THE GOOD:

Each of these pitches were changeups out/off the plate.  After watching each clip about a dozen times, I do think he might have been outguessed on all three pitches. But he adjusted on the fly, kept his hands and weight back and found a barrel.  Each pitch resulted in a HR.  Home runs are good.  His physical tools and razor sharp/quick thinking allowed him to reach the pinnacle of a singular at bat: a home run.  Not many people on the planet can do this.

THE BAD:

I’ll also guess he sits fastball and adjusts off speed judging by his somewhat waving swing at these pitches.  That’s common for just about any young hitter.  But Robert gets around these baseballs, all of which are located out and off the plate.  Yes, he found the barrel.  Yes they were home runs.  Yes he smoked each ball.  But let’s not forget these are AAA changeups.  They’re not Cole Hamels changeups.  He will not be able to pull pitches out/off the plate against average or better MLB pitching with much consistency at this point, in my opinion.  Right now he’s succeeding because he’s a monster physically.  That said, his brain and approach still need a little work.

Had he been sitting changeup pre-pitch here, he would have let the ball travel deeper into the zone and deposited the pitch into the right/center gap or bleachers.  Instead he got around each ball and pulled them.

Let’s look at his spray chart:

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It doesn’t look like he’s completely dead pull at a glance, but I’d like also to see a spray chart complete with all balls put in play (which is not readily available).  If I were to guess after watching a solid 25 of his games or so this year, I’d guess there’d be a lot of dots that represent putouts to SS, 3B and LF due to him trying to instinctually get around or pull baseballs out/off the plate.

I also wanna focus on this part of the chart:

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These are all infield singles.  There might be a few bunts littered in there which don’t matter for the purpose of this discussion, but looking at the swing he put on each of the home runs in the clips above, I’m going to guess these are all roll over ground balls on breaking pitches that he beat out for singles because he’s one of the fastest players on earth.  Hits that he didn’t find a barrel on like in the clips above.  He has the pure talent and tools to find the barrel with at least some consistency right now, but nobody on earth can do that every single time he swings, hence a ton infield hits.

But I’m not worried about the results right now, I’m worried about the process.  A more polished hitter doesn’t roll over to his pull side too often.  He identifies breaking pitches out/off the plate and attempts to drive them to the opposite field.  And when he does get called to The Show, especially if that’s somewhat soon, I predict a good amount of struggle for a little bit with his current approach.  He’ll be fed a steady amount of breaking pitches out/off the plate, and those breaking pitches will be sharper, better located and thrown in any count.  Until he learns to lay off these pitches or drive them to the opposite, I predict he’ll struggle.  But – and this is a massive but – struggle and failure is part of the growth process, and I do expect him to learn to use the opposite field quickly.  Once he does, look out.  Pitchers across the whole league are fucked.

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Now I hope I’m completely and totally incorrect.  I hope he’s a star from the jump and that all this analysis completely sucks.  But I’m also trying to temper the fanbases expectations a bit.  We all saw Moncada and Eloy labeled as “busts” by a bunch of morons on social media right off the bat and look at them now.  But once Robert does get his feet wet against MLB pitching and as his approach matures, he very well could be a perennial 30/30 guy that puts up slash lines similar to Ronald Acuna.  Hopefully better.  He has legit incredible tools.  I just think it’ll take a minute.

PS – let me make this clear – should he struggle off the bat, I will lose my mind on anyone who whips out the B word on him.  I’ll be on the front lines defending him.  But that also doesn’t mean he’s not immune to objective criticism at the same time.